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" The pair sauntered back." (Page 13. 



[Frontispiece 



AT FAULT 



A NOVEL 



BY 

HAWLEY SMART 

AUTHOR OF 
: BROKEN BONDS," " 
"BOUND TO WIN," ETC., ETC. 



"For the lords in whose keeping the door is 
That opens on all who take breath, 
Gave the cypress to love, my Dolores, 
The myrtle to death." 



LONDON 
WARD, LOCK AND CO LIMITED 

NEW YORK AND MELBOURNE 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER »A(JB 

I "John Fossdykk, Solicitor" ........ 7 

II Perils of the Parks IS 

III The Baumborough Parliament 22 

IV " Money Never was Scarcer " 27 

V The Cricket Match 30 

VI Mr. Cudemore at Home 38 

VII " Nid's Advice" 4 2 

VIII " Discord at Dyke " 45 

IX "What a Tease you are, Herbert !" . . . . . -49 

X The Opening of the Baumborough Theatre . . . . 53 

XI "A Dinner at the Hopbine" 60 

XII Sergeant Silas Usher 6 4 

XIII Mr. Totterdell's Excitement 68 

XIV Club Gossip 75 

XV "Murder on the Mind" ......•• 80 

XVI The Inquest s - 

XVII Sergeant Usher Visits the Hopbine 9° 

XVIII The Sergeant Puzzled 97 

XIX John Fossdyke's Affairs ,02 

XX " Kisses and Consolation " io 4 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 

XXI Mr. Stdrton is Conscience-Stricken 

XXII Sergeant Usher at Fault . 

XXIII Bessie's Confession . . 

XXIV The Photograph .... 
XXV " Sergeant Usher's Views " 

XXVI Mr. Cudemore's Manoeuvres 

XXVII Bessie says " Yes " at Last 

XXVIII Mr. Cudemore gets Uncomfortable 

XXIX Morant meets Miss Hyde . 

XXX The Riddle about Solved . 

XXXI Mr. Cudemore's Love-Making . 

XXXII " Breast-High Scent " 

XXXIII Looking out the Keystonb 

XXXIV Last Links 

XXXV Mrs. Foxborough's Confession . 

XXXVI Mr. Cudemore gets Uneasy 

XXXVII No Longee "At Fault" . 

XXXVIII Mr. Cudemore's Arrest 

XXXIX "The Trial" .... 

XL Cudemore's Confession . 



IAGB 
1 08 

112 
119 
123 
126 

129 
133 
137 
I40 
I44 
I48 

ISI 
155 

159 
162 
166 
17c 

174 
177 

183 



AT FAULT 



CHAPTER I 

"JOHN FOSSDYKE, SOLICITOR' 

" f~~\ UGHT to have a theatre, sh 

I I — of course it ought to have 

V J a theatre — the idea of a 

thriving, go-ahead place like 
Baumborough being without such a 
thing ! We've a mechanics' institute, 
assembly rooms, hospital, college, 
covered market, Conservative club, 
public gardens, a town band — the 
most thick-headed and irascible muni- 
cipality in the kingdom, school of art, 
and all the latest fads of the times we 
live in, and no theatre. It can't be — 
it mustn't be. Do you mean to elevate 
the masses or do you not ? Are these 
not days in which culture is every- 
thing ? What are mutton-chops to 
mezzotints, or ducks to dados? Who 
would think of table sensualities when 
the intellectual banquet of Hamlet by 
the great Dobbs awaited him ? No, 
Baumborough, with its thirty thousand 
inhabitants, is astir with dramatic in- 
terests. We have local artists, sir, 
who only want opportunity ; suckling 
Sliakespeares in our midst who merely 
want some slight study of stage crait 
to blossom into metropolitan fame. 
No, Dr. Ingleby, despite the supreme 
stupidity and obstinacy of the Corpo- 
ration, you and I have pulled through 
a good many ticklish matters, and 
we'll work this. Baumborough must 
have a theatre, and when I, John Foss- 
dvke, tell you so, you know the thing 
will be." 

That was the keynote to John Foss- 
dyke's career — his indomitable self- 
assertion. Fifteen years ago he had 
settled in Baumborough as a solicitor, 



a young man with no introductions 
not an acquaintance, much less a 
friend, in the place, and now he was 
practically their leading citizen. From 
the very commencement it signified 
little what it might be, but whatever 
there might be to be done in Baum- 
borough, about it Mr. Fossdyke had 
much to say. Shrewd, hard-headed, 
pachydermatous, and a fluent speaker, 
he had proved from the first totally 
irrepressible. He began, as naturally 
all leading citizens do begin, in the 
opposition, and speedily demonstrated 
that to have John Fossdyke's fluent 
tongue and keen brain against a thing 
was to make its accomplishment a 
matter of some trouble. A man this 
to be propitiated, and cookers and 
contrivers of snug local jobs came 
quickly to the conclusion that this was 
a man to have on their side, and made 
overtures accordingly. Energetic, ir- 
repressible John was in no humour to 
turn up his nose at well-buttered bread, 
and speedily had not a finger but his 
whole fist in every pie worth baking. 
Practice came rapidly to him, and he 
had plenty of ability to take advantage 
of it, and having succeeded in marry- 
ing the daughter of a well-to-do 
clergyman in the neighbourhood, who 
had inherited a nice bit of money from 
her deceased mother, he conjoined the 
lucrative profession of money lending 
to the selling of law. It was soon 
spread about amongst the farmers 
round Baumborough that lawyer Foss- 
dyke had clients ready to advance a 
little money on decent security should 
the banks prove rusty, and in his early 
days John Fossdyke took care to out- 
bid the banks and demand one per 



8 



AT FAULT 



cent, less interest than they did. He 
throve and waxed fat in substance 
year by year, as men with this vehe- 
mence of clutch always do, obtained 
the appointment of town-clerk and a 
monopoly of all legal pickings con- 
nected with the Baumborough munici- 
pality. At the time this narrative com- 
mences, and Mr. Fossdyke feels it 
incumbent on him to express his 
sentiments concerning the erection of 
a theatre for Baumborough, to his 
esteemed friend, Dr. Ingleby, he had 
acquired for himself a pleasant villa 
?>bout a mile outside the town, with 
about a hundred acres of grass and 
pleasaunce around it, and was as lead- 
ing and prosperous a man as any in 
Baumborough. The building of this 
theatre, which now occupied his rest- 
less mind, was another of those local 
improvements which he so persistently 
floated, and which had in no little 
measure made him. His fellow- 
townsmen appreciated the public gar- 
dens, mechanics' institute, etc., all of 
which were in great measure brought 
about by his unwearied agitation, and 
which he took good care should more 
or less contribute to his advantage. 
"A warm man, and a good sort, and 
likes a bit of sport," said that large 
country side of which Baumborough 
was the market town, and the popular 
solicitor so far endorsed the latter 
laudation as to be ever open to the 
offer of a day's shooting or coursing, 
and to generally put in an appearance 
at the cover-side, when the hounds 
met within easy distance. But with 
all these virtues there was one allega- 
tion sometimes made against Mr. Foss- 
dyke, namely, that though he doubt- 
less had made a good bit of money, 
he was a very difficult man to get 
money from. These detractors were 
chiefly the tradespeople of Baum- 
borough, who, though perchance mere 
scandal-mongers, it could not be de- 
nied were certainly in a position to 
form an opinion. 

" Well," said the doctor slowly, after 
a pause, " I suppose if you have made 
up your mind, Fossdyke, we are, to 
have a theatre, a theatre we shall 
have. You generally carry out what 
you go in for, but it's no use pretend- 
ing your schemes are always success- 
ful. You shook us up to begin with. 



We had got stagnant, and the munic'- 
pality wanted new blood, but you're 
overdoing it now. The assembly 
rooms are not open twice a year, th^ 
covered market draws no custom, and 
the public gardens so far are mere 
sand, ashes, and sticks." 

" Things must have a beginning," 
rejoined Mr. Fossdyke cheerily. "You 
must educate your public to prefer 
legitimate space for dancing to the 
delights of crushed and torn flounces. 
Trees must have time to grow, while 
as for the covered market, I'll leave 
the climate to bring that into fashion. 
Walk out to the Dyke with me, have 
some lunch, and discuss the theatre." 

But Dr. Ingleby declined that offer, 
and the prosperous solicitor strolled 
home by himself. 

Prosperous, well-to-do men's houses 
are not quite so pleasant inwardly at 
times as their exterior would indicate. 
Good Lord ! there are many things we 
hanker sadly after that, could we only 
take a peep behind the scenes, we 
should never wish for more. John 
Fossdyke had married well, so said 
all Baumborough. It was regarded 
as a considerable step up the social 
ladder when he, at that time a strug- 
gling solicitor, won for himself the 
hand of the only daughter of the Rev. 
Maurice Kimberley, J. P., and Rector 
of Bimby, a parish lying some two or 
three miles outside the town. It was 
true Mary Kimberley was no chicken, 
and some years older than the aspiring 
attorney, but still Mary had a nice bit 
of money, and was considered at the 
time to have thrown herself away 
rather, although it did not seem quite 
so clear what other matrimonial alter- 
native was open to her. Marriage no 
doubt is no necessity for women, but 
when she has passed five-and-thirty, if 
she has any inclination that way, it 
behoves her to give due consideration 
to such proposals as may fall to her. 
Mary Kimberley was a little tired of 
Bimby Rectory ; life there was some- 
what stagnant, and she had a vague 
longing to change it for a world with 
somewhat more "go" in it. She was 
a sensible young woman, and when 
John Fossdyke asked her to marry 
him replied she would give him an 
answer in twenty-four hours. She had 
"a good think" over the business, 



"JOHN FOSSDYKE, SOLICITOR' 



and having arrived at the conclusion 
that there were only three courses 
open to her, namely, to remain mis- 
tress of the rectory, to marry some 
impecunious curate, or say yes to John 
Fossdyke, made up her mind to the 
hitter, and said yes the next day. So 
kir Mary Kimberley had shown wise 
discretion, but the pity of it was, that 
as Mary Fossdyke she forgot to con- 
tinue it. Many a man has been in- 
debted to his wife for his first start in 
life, but if ever a man feels that he 
has borrowed the capital that floated 
him at usurious interest it is when his 
wife persistently reminds him of the 
t.ict. Mrs. Fossdyke always kept be- 
fore her husband that it was her social 
pre-eminence that placed him where 
he was, that it was her money which 
was the foundation of his fortune. 
I'erhaps it was ; no doubt there was 
considerable truth in it ; but the per- 
petual recapitulation of conferred 
iienefits is about as trying as any 
known method of exasperation. No- 
f iody accused the Fossdykes of living 
a cat-and-dog life, but it was generally 
conceded that Mrs. Fossdyke, though 
,i well-meaning woman, was a little 
trying at times, while it was urged on 
her behalf that she had fair cause of 
complaint about the manner in which 
bhe was often left alone for weeks at a 
lime. Mr. Fossdyke's business was 
extensive, and by no means in these 
days confined to Baumborough. He 
was a man with a good many irons in 
the fire, and such irons, as we all 
know, require constant watching, and 
energetic John Fossdyke was not the 
man to let the kettle boil over from 
being out of the - way. 

Mrs. Fossdyke, dear good lady, al- 
though honestly fond and proud of her 
lord, could no more resist that irre- 
sistible luxury, a grievance, than the 
rest of us, and was wont to murmur 
over these constant absences in plain- 
tive manner to her intimates. " After 
all I've been to him, my dear," she 
would say, " after my lifting him into 
society, after my even finding him the 
money with which he was first enabled 
to embark in these great undertakings. 
John's clever there's no denying, ener- 
getic I grant you. Few men, even 
with all his advantages, would have 
achieved what he has done, but John 



is not considerate. He should remem- 
ber what I have been to him, that I 
occasionally require change, and am 
not above roughing it a little when 
necessary ; in short he might, I think, 
take me with him on some of these 
business excursions." 

But John Fossdyke remained im- 
penetrably deaf to all such hints as 
these. When his business required 
him to leave home he went, but never 
found it incumbent on him to take 
Mrs. Fossdyke. That estimable woman 
possessed the advantages of a steely 
grey eye, an aquiline nose, and much 
fixity of purpose, but she was fain to 
admit in moments of confidence that 
John would have his way in some 
things, and one of those things was 
the transacting of business without 
counsel from his better half. It had 
taken some time to instil this into the 
good lady's mind, for she was by no 
means diffident concerning her abili- 
ties to conduct anything, of any kind, 
and from laying out a flower garden 
to the buying or selling of Egyptians, 
from the cooking of an omelette to the 
question of what had become of the 
lost tribes of Israel never hesitated to 
express a decided opinion. About 
this last question, indeed, she was 
deliciously feminine and illogical. 
She said the Jews were unbelievers, 
and therefore not entitled to credence , 
consequently there was no real reascn 
to believe that there were any let 
tribes, such evidence as there was 
concerning them being utterly unre- 
liable — an ingenious bit of sophistry 
more easy to deny than disprove, and 
which caused Mrs. Fossdyke to be 
spoken of by the surrounding clergy 
as a clever woman, but with rather 
unsound opinions. So John Fossdyke 
went his way silently and solitarily on 
these business excursions, while his 
wife aired her imaginary grievance 
with much petty satisfaction. She 
was not exactly the woman to take a 
real wrong quietly, and, though she 
was very far from suspecting it, neither 
was John Fossdyke the man to put up 
with anything but absolute submission 
to his will when the occasion waxed 
strong enough. People may live a 
long time together, and while life pro- 
gresses in the ordinary grooves, form 
a very mistaken estimate of each 



10 



AT FAULT 



other's character. The indolent man 
thoroughly roused for instance, the 
dictatorial bully sharply collared, the 
meek, patient woman at last outraged 
past endurance, or the shrinking, shy 
girl suddenly called upon to play a he- 
roine's part, constantly astonish those 
who fancy they know them thoroughly. 
It is some sudden discovery of this 
nature which, labelled incompatibility 
of temper, very often furnishes em- 
ployment for the divorce court. 

Seated in the drawing-room at Dyke, 
in desultory conversation with Mrs. 
Fossdyke, was a tall, rubicund elderly 
gentleman, who, sad to say, was wont 
to be the cause of some acrimony be- 
tween the lady and her spouse. Mr. 
Totterdell, by appearance, should have 
been devoted solely to his own com- 
lort, the pleasures of the table and port 
wine. So he was, but he unfortunately 
conjoined with these tastes a most in- 
satiable curiosity. No child could 
have been more exacting as to " the 
why " of this, that, and the other, and 
his presence on one occasion of the 
packing of John Fossdyke's port- 
manteau had driven that gentleman 
to the verge of madness. He wanted 
to know why he took dress things with 
him ; why he took shooting boots, 
when he said he was going to London. 
Whom did he expect to dine with, 
etc. ? In short, he possessed one of 
those petty inquiring minds that are 
very trying to a quick, energetic 
temper. He was Mrs. Fossdyke's 
godfather, had made a comfortable 
bit of money at some business in the 
city, and had now retired and settled 
at Baumborough, where his principal 
occupation was the supervision of his 
neighbours' affairs. Notably was he 
much exercised concerning the goings 
and comings of John Fossdyke, and 
that energetic gentleman was the last 
man in the world to succumb tamely 
to such supervision of his affairs. 
What with Mrs. Fossdyke thinking 
that her advice would be invaluable, 
and old Mr. Totterdell's doddering 
curiosity concerning them, there was 
a good deal of friction in the domestic 
life of John Fossdyke. 

" He's too venturesome, Mary ; I've 
said so all along ; he's always starting 
something new in the town," wheezed 
old Totterdell from the depths of his 



easy chair. " What does he want 

with all these new notions down here ? 
They are all very well in London, 
but Baumborough can't support such 
things. I have heard that a theatre 
is a profitable speculation in the 
metropolis, but we don't want one, 
and what can John know of matters 
theatrical? Mark me, my dear, I don't 
want to croak, but your husband will 
get into trouble by meddling with 
matters he don't understand. What 
is all this business that requires his 
perpetual absence? Something, Mary, 
that he knows his old friends would 
pronounce hazardous if they knew of 
it. No, no, you ought to exert your 
influence. A wife should be her 
husband's confidante." 

"It's too true, godpapa, and John 
makes me miserable by the mystery in 
which he insists on enshrouding his 
business transactions." 

" Not only those, but I can't under- 
stand him at all," returned the old 
gentleman, fidgeting in his chair, and 
toying with a heavy pair of double gold 
eye-glasses. " I have only settled 
down here about a twelvemonth, and 
can consequently claim no longer 
acquaintance with your husband than 
that ; but now who is this companion 
you have got ? Where did she come 
from ? Nothing wrong in it, no doubt, 
but still where did she come from ? " 

"How should I know?" rejoined 
Mrs. Fossdyke. " Miss Hyde's ac- 
count of herself is plain and straight- 
forward enough. Her people are not 
rich, and she was tired of living at 
home. John— and it was kind of him 
to think of it — thought that it must be 
dull for me while he was away, and 
suggested I should have a companion. 
Miss Hyde answered our advertise- 
ment, and here she is." 

" And a very nice-looking, lady-like 
girl she is to look at, I admit ; in fact, 
if anything, perhaps a trifle more good- 
looking than most ladies would care 
about as a companion." 

" Don't talk nonsense, godfather," 
retorted Mrs. Fossdyke sharply. 
"John has never made me uncom- 
fortable in that way, and Bessie Hyde 
is no coquette." 

" Quite so, my dear ; but still, where 
does she come from ? " 

" Good gracious, what can it matter ? 



"JOHN FOSSDYKE, SOLICITOR" 



II 



She's a nice lady-like girl, and whether 
her father is a retired tradesman or a 
broken-down professional man is no 
consequence," and Mrs. Fossdyke's 
foot tapped the floor with somewhat 
unnecessary vehemence. 

Her godfather's insatiable and ab- 
surd curiosity occasionally exasperated 
Mary Fossdyke, but there were, un- 
fortunately, times when it roused dis- 
trust in her surroundings. The old 
pro\ erb of the Romans tells us that 
the constant drip wears the stone ; the 
constant friction breaks the spring, the 
nerves, or the temper, and when once 
the why of all the actions of those with 
whom we habitually live becomes 
matter of inquiry, suspicion must be 
the inevitable consequence. This was 
exactly what was gradually arising in 
Mrs. Fossdyke's mind. She had in- 
dulged in natural curiosity concerning 
the business that took her husband so 
much from home in the early days of 
their wedded life, but when also it was 
made manifest to her that John Foss- 
dyke brooked no inquiries into his 
business affairs, she, like a sensible 
woman, made up her mind to acquiesce 
in this decision. When he suggested 
that as they had no children it would 
be pleasant for her to have a young 
lady as a companion, Mrs. Fossdyke 
felt very grateful to her husband for 
his forethought, and she had found 
Bessie Hyde as bright, pleasant, and 
good-tempered as it was possible for 
a young lady of nineteen to be. Miss 
Hyde had arrived at Dyke nearly two 
years before the commencement of the 
narrative, while Mr. Totterdell had 
settled in Baumborough some twelve 
months later. It is necessary to 
mention these facts to explain the 
manner in which Mrs. Fossdyke, who 
was in the main an honest, good- 
hearted woman, gradually allowed her 
imagination to be inflamed and her 
judgment to be perverted by such a 
cackling curiosity - monger as Mr. 
Totterdell. That gentleman, since 
his retirement from business, found 
time hang heavy on his hands, and 
endeavoured to lighten it as best he 
might, by laudable watch over the 
concerns of his neighbours. He in- 
flicted a considerable amount of his 
leisure on his goddaughter, and though 
Mrs. Fossdyke was by no means en- 



chanted by the attention, she bore with 
it for prudential reasons. The old 
man had beyond doubt a considerable 
sum of money to leave behind "him, 
and Mrs. Fossdyke was about the 
nearest relative that he had. But the 
result of Mr. Totterdell's perpetually 
" wanting to know " had slowly 
resulted in engendering distrust in 
Mrs. Fossdyke's mind. She had got 
used to her husband's constant and at 
times long absences from home, but 
Totterdell's perpetual speculation as 
to what he went about had brought 
back uncomfortable thoughts to her 
mind that she had long since done 
away with ; while his perpetually harp- 
ing upon " where did Miss Hyde come 
from " was inoculating her with un- 
warranted suspicions concerning the 
girl. Mrs. Fossdyke was half ashamed 
of both these feelings herself, but never- 
theless she could not help showing 
them to the two people from whom it 
most behoved her to conceal them — 
her husband and Bessie. The former, 
resenting all reference to his move- 
ments fiercely, speedily discerned who 
it was that prompted his wife's interro- 
gations, and was rude and curt enough 
in his remarks to Mr. Totterdell to 
have banished a more sensitive man 
from his house ; but that old gentle- 
man in his thirst for information was 
accustomed to encounter rebuff : he 
was case-hardened, impervious to 
snubbing, and callous to sarcasm, and 
short of telling him in plain English 
that you would have none of him, was 
no more to be got rid of than Sinbad's 
" Old man of the sea." To shut your 
door against your wife's relations 
requires some justification, and when 
you belong to the community of a 
country town, the ordering of your 
minage is public talk. John Fossdyke, 
though not a man to be cowed by 
popular opinion, did see that to close 
the gate against Mr. Totterdell would 
by no means close that garrulous old 
gentleman's mouth, and as the broadest 
hints that his company was undesirable 
had proved useless, had finally elected 
to bear it as best he might. Still his 
face darkened a little as he entered 
the drawing-room and discovered his 
bete noir ensconced in the easiest chair, 
babbling, as he had little doubt, over 
his, John Fossdyke's, affairs. 



12 



AT FAULT 



A dark, portly man of florid com- 
plexion, scarce a tinge of grey in his 
black hair, and with an eye keen as a 
hawk's, John Fossdyke looked what 
he was — a prosperous man ; shrewd, 
with an air of bonhommie that dis- 
armed suspicion. He had a rich 
mellow voice, could, indeed, troll out 
songs of the "jolly nose " type in rather 
superior fashion, an accomplishment 
that stood him in good stead amongst 
the farmers of the neighbourhood, who, 
moreover, liked the jovial attorney 
none the worse because, if he could 
snatch a day, he had rather a penchant 
for attending the local races, and 
having what he facetiously de- 
nominated a few " spangles " on the 
principal event. 

" Good morning, Mr. Totterdell," 
he said, as he advanced. "What is 
the best news with you to-day ? " 

" Dear me, I've heard nothing, posi- 
tively nothing at all ; nor has Mary, 
she tells me. There must be some- 
thing new to talk about. What have 
you heard, my dear friend ? " 

" I have nothing to tell. I had 
nothing to do out of the office except 
attend the meeting about establishing 
a theatre in Baumborough ; of course 
there are obstacles, and there is oppo- 
sition, there always is. We shall 
overcome them — people always do 
who persistently stick to a thing, and 
I'm a rare sticker." 

"But godfather is quite sure a 
theatre in Baumborough can never 
pay, John," interposed Mrs. Fossdyke. 

" And pray what does Mr. Totter- 
dell know of either theatricals or 
Baumborough ? He has only been a 
twelvemonth in the town. I have been 
fifteen years and more." 

" I never heard that you had any 
experience of theatricals," wheezed 
Mr. Totterdell. 

" I was very fond of them as a young 
man, and knew a good many theatrical 
people, and occasionally look in at a 
theatre now, when business takes me 
to London," replied Fossdyke a little 
tartly. 

"Then all I can say, John, it's a 
great shame that you don't take me 
with you when you go away, when 
you know how I enjoy a theatre," 
chimed in Mrs. Fossdyke. 

" Eh ! you mixed a good deal with 



theatrical people in your early dayt ! 
Now what made you do that?" in- 
quired Mr. Totterdell eagerly. " How 
did you get thrown amongst them? 
Tell us that, it will be very in- 
teresting." 

" I shall not gratify your curiosity in 
any way," rejoined the solicitor. " I 
only mentioned it in proof that I had 
some slight knowledge of matters 
theatrical. As for you accompanying 
me, Mary, on business trips, it is 
simply ^impossible. I rarely know 
when tiley may take me to London, 
and I have told you before that you 
would be only uncomfortable and 
disappointed." 

" I should like to go once though," 
rejoined Mrs. Fossdyke, like a true 
daughter of Eve, none of whom would 
ever flinch from discomfort to see what 
any man they cared about might be 
doing under any circumstances. 

" Are theatrical people pleasant ac- 
quaintances ? " inquired Totterdell, 
who was all alive at the bare idea of 
getting a little insight into Fossdyke's 
early life, a subject on which he was 
singularly reticent ; indeed, even his 
wife knew very little of his career 
previous to his settling in Baum- 
borough, and it was the knowledge of 
his goddaughter's ignorance on the 
point that so whetted the old in- 
quisitor's curiosity. 

" Cultivate them and judge for your- 
self," rejoined Fossdyke brusquely, 
who, though a genial and tolerably 
good-tempered man, was wont to wax 
irritable under Mr. Totterdell's endless 
questions. 

" Much doing in the office ? " 
croaked the insufferable one. 

" Pshaw !" ejaculated the solicitor. 
" Whatever may be doing in the office 
you surely know is not to be talked 
about. I shall go and look at the 
roses, Mary. Send and let me know 
when tea is in." 

" It's very odd," remarked Mr. Tot- 
terdell, as Fossdyke stepped through 
the window, "but that is just what 
Miss Hyde went to do half an hour 
ago. Bad-tempered man your hus- 
band, my dear ; bad-mannered too, 
rather," and the old gentleman sunk 
back in his chair with a benevolent 
smile on his countenance. 

" He's not bad-tempered, godfather," 



"JOHN FOSSDYKE, SOLICITOR" 



13 



rejoined Mrs. Fossdyke, firing up, and 
by no means as yet prepared to hear 
her husband found fault with by any 
one but herself. " He can't bear being 
questioned, and you always irritate 
him by doing so." 

" But, God bless me, how's conver- 
sation to be carried on without you ask 
questions?'" rejoined Mr. Totterdell. 
" I thought he would have been de- 
lighted to tell us all about his theatri- 
cal life. I dare say he was something 
in a theatre." 

" He was nothing of the kind, and 
it's downright wicked of you to suggest 
such a thing," cried Mrs. Fossdyke 
indignantly. 

John Fossdyke made his way amidst 
the flower-beds to the further side of the 
trimly-kept turf, where the grass ceased 
to be studded with the gay masses of 
colour, and ran down green and vel- 
vety towards a prettily-planned rosary, 
the denizens of which were now in all 
the glory of their summer bloom. In 
their midst a tall, dark-haired maiden, 
her hands cased in gardening gauntlets 
and armed with a large pair of scis- 
sors, was busy, snipping off the faded 
blooms and casting them into a small 
basket at her feet. 

" Hard at work again, tending your 
favourites, Bessie?" said the lawyer, 
as he advanced. 

"Yes," returned the girl, as she 
welcomed him with a smile, " they are 
worth taking care of this year. Did 
you ever see a more magnificent show 
than they make ? — but you are home 
early to-day." 

" There was little business to be 
done, but old Totterdell cross-exam- 
ined me out of the house, so here I 
am. How my wife can endure that 
garrulous old nuisance I can't imagine. 
He ought to leave her a good bit of 
money, and not be long before he does 
it, I'm sure. Does he ever bother you, 
Bessie?" 

" Yes ; he embarrasses me at times. 
He wants to know so very much about 
my antecedents ; but I usually escape 
on the plea of seeing about some house- 
hold duty, and Mrs. Fossdyke is very 
good, she generally acquiesces and 
covers my retreat." 

"Quite right ; whatever you do make 
no confidant of him. My wife never 
troubles you in this wise?" inquired 



the lawyer, burying his hands in his 
pockets and casting a keen look at 
the girl. 

" Never ; Mrs. Fossdyke after the 
first has never questioned me about 
my home. But is it not time for 
tea?" 

" I suppose so ; and here comes 
Robert to tell us," and the pair saun- 
tered slowly back to the drawing-room 
windows. 

There was nothing much in this 
conversation, and yet if Mrs. Foss- 
dyke had heard it she would have de- 
cidedly thought there was something 
in her godfather's suspicions after all. 
There was no sign of the slightest 
flirtation between the two, but the few 
foregoing sentences did rather point 
to an understanding of some sort 
between Fossdyke and Miss Hyde. 
His calling her Bessie was nothing ; 
both he and his wife had commenced 
doing that before she had been six 
months under their roof, and made no 
disguise that they were very fond of 
her, and regarded her more in the 
light of a niece than a dependant. 
Still it was not difficult to gather from 
those few words which passed between 
them in the rosary that John Fossdyke 
knew more of Miss Hyde's antece- 
dents than that young lady had thought 
fit to confide to his wife. 

And it may here be at once stated, 
in justice to a very charming girl, that 
Bessie was no impostor, and that her 
statement was in the main correct. 
She had been brought up by her aunt, 
and had got on very well with her 
cousins, until she arrived at the age of 
seventeen, and commenced to mingle 
in such society as her aunt, the widow 
of a well-to-do' partner in a large silk 
and millinery establishment at the 
West End of London, had arrived at. 
Then her superior attractions and 
attainments dwarfed the goods her 
two cousins had to display, and it was 
the old story of Cinderella and her 
sisters. They made home uncomfort- 
able to her, and she sought to leave 
it. She had a skeleton of her own in 
the closet — but there's few of us have 
not — likely if discovered to prove 
detrimental to obtaining such a situa- 
tion as she wished to obtain. It was 
no great harm, but society has its pre- 
judices, and no country on the face ol 



14 



AT FAULT 



creation is so miserably cantridden as 
England. She knew John Fossdyke, 
and consulted him. His answer was 
prompt and decisive : he knew all 
about that skeleton. 

" Say simply that you were brought 
up by your aunt, Mrs. Lewisham, and 
are tired of home. Say nothing about 
your other relatives, and, above all, 
never hint that you have any previous 
knowledge of me, and I will find you 
a comfortable home in my own house. 
My wife is a good woman, and will be 
kind to you, but if she once suspects 
I have any previous knowledge of you 
she will want to know the whole par- 
ticulars, will never rest till she does, 
and then, poor thing, she has her pre- 
judices, and, Bessie, I doubt whether 
she would tolerate you at Dyke." 

At first the girl flamed fiercely up 
at this, but gradually John Fossdyke 
made her comprehend that, let her 
seek a situation where she might, it 
was imperative that skeleton should 
be kept out of sight. 

"It is prejudice and sheer nonsense, 
child, of course, but we cannot con- 
vince people of that. They will not 
want to see what you are, but will at 
once decline your application. You 
may just as well be mute about it in 
my house as another," and at last 
Bessie consented, and at the end of 
two years was fain to confess Dyke 
was more a home to her than any 
other place. The Fossdykes treated 
her precisely as if she was a near rela- 
tive, and being a handsome, lively, 
attractive girl, Baumborough generally 
made a great deal of her. At the time 
this story commences the Fossdykes 
very rarely got an invitation in which 
Miss Hyde was not intluded. 

" Come and pour out the tea, Bessie 
dear," exclaimed Mrs. Fossdyke, as 
the girl stepped through the window. 
" We are quite ready for it." 

" I hope I haven't kept you waiting, 
but there was so much snipping to be 
done I forgot how late it was getting." 

"Anything new this morning in" — 
Baumborough, Mr. Totterdell was 
about to ask, but John Fossdyke's 
darkened face checked him, and turn- 
ing to Bessie, he concluded his ques- 
tion with " in the rosary ? " 

" Yes, caterpillars," growled the law- 
yer. 



Bessie bit her lips to control her 
laughter. Totterdell beamed benevo- 
lently, as if it was something even 
to learn that ; while Mrs. Fossdyke 
frowned meaningly at her husband. 

A few minutes later, and Mr. Totter- 
dell rose to take his departure, not 
influenced in the slightest degree by 
the undisguised irritability of the 
master of the house, but simply that 
no further question occurred to him ; 
indeed his last, if completed according 
to his original intention, was a mere 
repetition. He shook hands affection- 
ately all round, and then rolled out of 
the room with all the assured manner 
of a favoured visitor. 

"Your godfather, Mary, is getting 
more unbearable every day," remarked 
John Fossdyke snappishly, as the door 
closed behind the old gentleman. 

" He is somewhat trying, I admit, 
but we can't well close our door to 
him ; besides, some of these days he 
will leave something very comfortable 
behind him ; and I don't know how it 
is, John, but we always seem to be in 
want of money, considerable though 
your income must be." 

John Fossdyke uttered an impatient 
pshaw. Even to the wife of his bosom 
he was extremely reticent about his 
affairs, but she did know that she 
brought him a nice bit of money, and 
that he held the appointment of town- 
clerk, which carried a very handsome 
salary with it, then surely his business 
as a solicitor must be tolerably profit- 
able ; yet she knew from practical 
experience that he always parted with 
money most grudgingly, and was wont 
to be querulous even over the house- 
hold expenses, an eccentric trait this 
in John Fossdyke's character, men of 
his genial temperament being usually 
free-handed, unless compelled to be 
otherwise from circumstances, and 
that could hardly be his case. 

" By the way, John," said Mrs. Foss- 
dyke, after a slight pause, " godfather 
told me he had been asked to come 
forward as a candidate for the muni- 
cipal council." 

"He!" exclaimed her husband. "I 
trust he won't think of such a thing. 
He's very unfitted for it. We have a 
great deal too many fussy, interfering 
fools there as it is. Besides, it is 
rather infra dig. in a man of his 



PERILS OF THE PARKS 



15 



position. Mind you impress that upon 
him." 

'' I feel sure I couldn't. It was the 
height of his ambition to achieve that 
distinction in London, though he never 
succeeded. I assure you he is quite 
keen about it ; besides, he has nothing 
to do, and it will amuse him." 

" You won't find him more untract- 
able than some of the others, Mr. 
Fossdyke," remarked Miss Hyde, "and 
you know you contrive to have your 
own way pretty much with the coun- 
cil." 

" Nevertheless," he replied decid- 
edly, " I don't want Totterdell there. 
Remember, Mary, if you can choke 
him off it, do. You also, Bessie, dis- 
suade him if you have an opportunity. 
As for me, I shall endeavour to pre- 
vent his election." 

" Lor' ! John, it surely can't matter 
much to you," exclaimed Mrs. Foss- 
dyke. 

" Please do what I ask you. It may 
be a small matter ; but, believe me, I 
have my reasons for not wishing to 
see Mr. Totterdell on the council." 



CHAPTER II 

PERILS OF THE PARKS 

THE Syringa Music Hall in the City 
Road was a place of mark known not 
only to Clerkenwell and Islington, but 
occasionally visited by adventurous 
spirits from the West End, whose in- 
satiable thirst to see the last thing in 
" great and glorious comics," or emi- 
nent acrobats, led them to penetrate 
to distant suburbs. The Syringa had 
been established about ten years, but 
in its earlier days had been only a 
modest concert-room, under the name 
of Moffat's, where harmony and re- 
freshments were nightly dispensed. 
Whether Moffat was unequal to the 
times, failed to discern that mystic 
problem, " what the public wanted," 
or whether Moffat lacked capital, it is 
impossible to say, but it is certain that 
Moffat did not flourish. He reduced 
his vocalist's salaries, whereby the 
music went from bad to worse ; the 
quality of his liquors fell off, and his 
customers also in like proportion ; in 
short, after sustaining the struggle for 
five years Moffat was glad to i«""' 



bankruptcy by disposing of the whole 
concern, including the remainder of 
his lease, to Mr. James Foxborough. 

James Foxborough was a man of 
a very different stamp from the late 
proprietor. He was a go-ahead, ener- 
getic man, with evident command of 
capital. He knocked the old concert- 
room down, got possession of an ad- 
joining house or two, and proceeded 
to build a commodious modern music- 
hall in its place, which he christened 
the Syringa. Whereas Moffat's had 
been comparatively unknown, except 
to the initiated, gaudy- coloured posters 
and extensive advertising proclaimed 
the birth of the Syringa ; star artists 
were engaged, a capital entertainment 
organized, the catering carefully looked 
to, and in less than three months the 
new music-hall was drawing crowded 
houses. 

Mr. Foxborough might be said to be 
in the profession. He had married 
Miss NydiaWilloughby, the celebrated 
serio-comic vocalist,some twenty years 
ago, and in the beginning of his career 
had been chiefly indebted to that lady's 
earnings for his support ; but of late 
years he had made money, chiefly it 
was supposed by travelling about the 
country with theatrical companies. He 
was an admitted shrewd judge of such 
things, and was, moreover, presumed 
to be considerably assisted therein by 
his wife. Mrs. Foxborough was wont 
to say, " I don't pretend to be a judge 
of either the play or the acting, but I 
know when there's money in a piece, 
and it is by no means the best plays 
that bring in the most money." In 
which assertion the lady was in all pro- 
bability right. At all events she man- 
aged the Syringa, while her husband 
was away on his numerous theatrical 
tours, exceedingly well, was very popular 
with her company, and sure to note 
those who "drew" andthose who failed 
to do so ; and though she knew well 
it was her business to get rid of 
these latter unfortunates as quickly as 
possible, yet the kind-hearted mana- 
geress, when aware that employment 
was a very serious object for them, on 
account of the narrowness of their 
means, would allow them at times to 
hang on some weeks after their en- 
g.igement had expired, sooner than 
turn them adrift with nothing to do. 



16 



AT FAULT 



It was not often that Miss Nydia 
Willoughby appeared on the stage her- 
ielf now-a-days. It was not that her 
voice was gone at all, far from it ; 
perhaps it was as good as ever it had 
been, the result of not being unduly 
worked. If her figure was a little fuller 
and more matronly than in her younger 
days, she was still a tall, handsome 
woman, verging on forty it might be, 
but with not a thread of silver in the 
rich chestnut hair, while the dark blue 
eyes flashed as brightly and archly as 
when they had riddled the heart of 
Jim Foxborough years ago ; but Miss 
Willoughby thought it judicious not 
to give the frequenters of the Syringa 
too much of herself. She always got 
an immense reception when she did 
sing, which she dearly loved, for she 
was clever in her line and very popu- 
lar with the public, and she had sense 
enough to know that if she was con- 
tinually in the programme her welcome 
could hardly be expected to be so en- 
thusiastic. She was a brave, plucky 
woman, who had had a hard struggle 
with the world in her younger days, 
and had battled it out, neither flinch- 
ing nor complaining. Now things were 
easy for her, and she had leisure to 
enjoy life, and was never so happy as 
when she had her vagrant husband at 
home for a little between his tours. 

Mrs. Foxborough dearly loved her 
husband and Nid. Nid was their only 
daughter, a sweetly pretty girl of six- 
teen, with her mother's chestnut hair 
and deep blue eyes, but with no pro- 
mise of ever attaining her mother's 
stature. She was a bright, piquant 
little thing, with rather irregular fea- 
tures, but with a charming smile and 
most beautiful teeth. She had been 
highly educated, especially in music, 
for money had been tolerably plentiful 
ever since Nid had been of age to re- 
quire masters, indeed the hard times 
of her parents' early career had been 
over before Nid was old enough to 
understand such things. She had a 
dim recollection of living in somewhat 
poky lodgings, compared with the pretty 
cottage standing in its own garden on 
the north-east side of the Regent's 
Park which they now occupied, but 
she could only just call to mind the 
time when her mother had no broug- 
ham of her own, but had to go about 



in cabs. The little lady, indeed, had 
been brought up, if not in luxury, at 
all events in easy circumstances, and 
had acquired a somewhat contemptu- 
ous estimate of the value of money. 

She was seated now, coiled up in a big 
easy chair, in the drawing-room of the 
cottage, talking in animated fashion and 
with very flushed face to her mother. 

" Yes, mamma, quite an adventure, I 
assure you. I was just entering the 
park at the upper end, one of the side 
gates not far from the Zoological Gar- 
dens, you know, when a rough-looking 
man accosted me, and asked me to 
give him something. I glanced round 
in hopes of seeing some one, but, as 
far as I could see, there was nobody in 
sight. I hurried on, but he easily kept 
alongside of me, and I suppose it 
quickly dawned upon him also that he 
had got me all to himself. Suddenly 
he changed his tone, and exclaimed 
gruffly, ' If young women like you ain't 
larnt to be charitable it's about time 
they wos taught. Do you know, miss, 
it's the tiptoppedest of all the virtues 
— leastways that's what the chaplain 
taught us in Millbank, so tip us that 
purse I see in your hand — quick, 
or I'll twist your blessed little head 
off.' Oh, mamma, I could have 
dropped, and mechanically held out 
my purse to him. ' This is a 
somewhat hasty conwersion,' he con- 
tinued, as he pocketed it, ' but a well- 
educated young woman like you don't 
require to be reminded that " He who 
giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord," 
and so off with that necklace and those 
bracelets, and look sharp, for if I have 
to help you I shall, perhaps, turn out 
a roughish lady's-maid.' This so fright- 
ened me, mamma, my hands trembled 
to that extent that I could not undo 
the clasp of the necklet. The man got 
impatient, and suddenly seized hold of 
me and wrenched it from my neck. 
Up to this I had been paralyzed with 
fear, but now I screamed in downright 
earnest. ' Stow that,' exclaimed the 
man fiercely, ' or I'll strangle you. 
Come, off with the bangles, quick, or 
I shall have to assist you again.' I 
unclasped one bracelet, and then my 
legs fairly failed to sustain me, and I 
sank half fainting to the ground. The 
ruffian uttered a savage oath, and ad- 
vanced towards me. Suddenly I heard 



PERILS OF THE PARKS 



17 



a quick, step on the grass ; a man with 
a white hat dashed at my assailant, 
who had barely time to confront the 
1 new-comer. There was a quick inter- 
change of blows. I saw my footpad 
acquaintance drop as if shot, and then 
I fainted." 

" My darling, you must never go out 
again in that way by yourself," said 
Mrs. Foxborough, as she came across 
from her own seat to fondle the little 
chestnut head in the arm-chair. 

"Nobody ever was rude to me in 
the park before, mamma, and you know 
I have been there by myself over and 
over again." 

"Yes, dear, but this shows it is in- 
sufficiently policed. When your papa 
comes back we must get him to see 
the authorities about it. It is mon- 
strous that a young lady living near 
the Regent's Park should not be able 
to walk in it unattended. But let me 
hear the end of your adventure, Nid ; 
as I have got you here safe and sound 
I can afford to listen to it." 

" Well, when 1 came to, 1 found the 
gentleman with the white hat support- 
ing me, and dabbing my face with a 
wet handkerchief, which he kept damp- 
ing from a watering-pot held by a 
park-keeper. I came round pretty 
quick then, mamma, as you may ima- 
gine. If finding herself in a strange 
gentleman's arms, while her face is 
being dabbed in a most uncomfortable 
and manlike fashion, with a park- 
keeper superintending the operation, 
isn't enough to bring any girl to, I 
don't know what is. Anyhow, 1 gave 
a gulp or two, got on my legs, shaking 
as they were, and asked for some water 
to drink. He of the white hat and 
the park-keeper looked helplessly at 
each other for a moment or two— it 
was obvious 1 couldn't drink out of the 
watering-pot, and then my preserver 
started the park-keeper off for a jug 
and a tumbler. I felt so damp that I 
half suspect they had used the water- 
in;4-pot and treated me as if I were a 
geranium while I was unconscious." 

" ' 1 am afraid you have been terribly 
frightened,' he said quietly, ' but I 
trust are not hurt. I was unluckily a 
little late in coming to your assistance, 
though 1 assure you I came as soon as 
I heard your screams, and as quickly 
as I could — any one naturally would. 



Has the ruffian robbed you of any- 
thing ? 1 found the bracelet on the 
grass, but you may have lost more.' 

" ' He has got my purse and my 
necklet,' 1 stammered, ' but don't, 
please, don't trouble. I can't thank 
you now, I am too nervous, but you 
have been very good — and — and I'm 
very much obliged.' It was tame, 
mamma, I know, but I really was all 
abroad, and could not do the thing 
prettily. 

" ' I'm sorry about the purse, and 
also that the scoundrel has got away, 
but though I knocked him down very 
clean,' rejoined my hero, ' he was on 
his legs and making marvellously good 
use of them in a twinkling. 1 thought 
of giving chase for a moment, but I 
couldn't, leave you here insensible.' 

" ' It would have been very inhuman 
if you had,' 1 answered with a gulp, 
for 1 could hardly repress a slight 
tendency to hysterics." 

"I should think not, darling," said 
her mother softly, as she bent over 
the girl, fondling her. 

" ' The scoundrel will probably get 
off,' continued my friend, ' and you 
will probably never see his face again. 
But there is one consolation for you — 
had he been apprehended you would 
have had to appear against him at 
the police court, and that is not very 
nice for a young lady.' 

" ' I would rather lose ten purses,' 1 
replied hastily. 

" ' That depends a little on what is 
in them,' rejoined my new friend, 
laughing. ' But are you well enough 
to think of going home yet ? Ah, 
here comes the park-keeper with the 
water.' 

" Well, I drank some water, and he 
escorted me to the outside of the park, 
and walked with me till we met a cab. 
Then he put me into it, asked where 
he should tell the man to drive to, 
hoped I should soon recover from my 
fright, and lifted his hat in farewell. 
He was very nice, mamma." 

"And I suppose very good-looking, 
Nid — the heroes of little romances 
like yours always are," replied her 
mother, laughing. 

"Well, that is just what I don't 
think he is. I can't say I ever had a 
really good look at him. I was so 
frightened, and it was so awkward, 



i8 



AT FAULT 



you know, but 1 should call him a tall, 
red-headed man. He was thoughtful, 
too, to the last, for he checked the 
cabman a minute just as I was going 
off, and leaning forward said, ' Do not 
think me obtrusive, but remember you 
have lost your purse ; can I be of any 
further use ? ' Of course I thanked 
him and said no." 

" I suppose he is a young man ? " 
said Mrs. Foxborough interroga- 
tively. 

" I hardly know — not very young, 
certainly ; but, mamma, the more I 
think about it, the more convinced I 
am he is ugly." 

" Ah, well, my dear, I don't suppose 
we shall see him again, though I own 
I should like to thank him for his 
kindness to my little girl," said Mrs. 
Foxborough, as she stroked the girl's 
chestnut locks. 

" Perhaps not," replied Nid ; but in 
her own mind she felt pretty certain 
that she should see her red-haired, 
white-hatted acquaintance before long. 
And the girl was correct in her sur- 
mise, for the very next morning the 
trim parlourmaid brought in a card, on 
which was inscribed " Mr. Herbert 
Morant, 6, Morpeth Terrace." 

" Please, ma'am, the gentleman 
wants to know if you will see him, as 
he has recovered Miss Nydia's neck- 
lace which the thief stole yesterday.'' 

" Certainly ; show him in, Ellen, 
and let Miss Nydia know he's here," 
and Mrs. Foxborough, with no little 
curiosity, awaited the appearance of 
the hero of yesterday's adventure. 

He speedily made his appearance, 
a tall, gentlemanly-looking man, with 
hair, though not glaringly red, still of 
a most decidedly warm-coloured tint, 
clean-shaved all but a trim moustache, 
a quiet mobile face, with a pair of 
bold keen eyes that met your own 
without a blink or a droop in them. 

" Mrs. Foxborough, I presume," he 
said, with an easy smile. " It was my 
good fortune yesterday to render your 
daughter some slight service, and 
though I should hardly have ventured 
to intrude upon you on such grounds, 
yet it is incumbent on me to restore 
this to her" (here he produced the 
necklet), "and I could not resist the 
temptation of doing so in person in 
order that I might inquire if she is 



really none the worse for the rascally 
attack made upon her." 

" It is very kind of you to take so 
much trouble," rejoined Mrs. Fox- 
borough, " and the more so because it 
enables me to thank you and express 
my gratitude for your protection of my 
daughter. I do thank you from the 
bottom of my heart," continued the 
lady, extending her hand ; " but for 
you there is no saying how far that 
brute's ill-treatment of her might have 
been carried ; and she is very, very 
dear to me, Mr. Morant, as you will 
understand when you know us bet- 
ter." 

" I don't think I need see much of 
you to understand that," said the 
young man, with a frank smile, for 
though he might not be young, from 
Nid's point of view, he lacked a year 
or two of thirty. " I ought to tell you, 
Mrs. Foxborough, who and what I am; 
but that is just what is rather difficult 
to convey to you. It is much easier 
to tell you what I'm not. I am neither 
barrister, doctor, soldier, sailor, in 
short, I am nothing. I am that ano- 
maly known as a gentleman of inde- 
pendent means, which might be 
translated in this wise — I have suffi- 
cient money to dispense with working 
for my living, and yet not enough to 
do what I want. Then why don't I 
work, you will of course ask, like 
every one else ; to which I reply, I am 
just about to begin. I have been 
about to begin now," he added rue- 
fully, " about six years, but somehow I 
don't seem to get any nearer to it." 

Mrs. Foxborough could not help 
laughing. " An extraordinary frank, 
open-minded young gentleman, this," 
she thought ; and yet this guileless 
young man was even now practising 
a slight deception on her. The neck- 
let which he had called to restore he 
had picked up at the same time as 
the bracelet, but he had been so 
struck with Nid's beauty that he had 
quietly put it in his pocket so that it 
might serve as an excuse for calling 
upon that young lady. 

" Forgive me," he said after a slight 
pause, " but I am haunted with the 
idea that we have met before." 

"I think not," she replied, "al- 
though it is very likely that you have 
seen me. I am a professional, you 



PERILS OF THE PARKS 



19 



know, and that you have heard Miss 
Nydia Willoughby sing is very possi- 
ble — that is my stage name." 

" Of course ; how very dull of me ! 
I have heard you with great pleasure 
many times, but it did not, as you 
may suppose, occur to me to connect 
Miss Willoughby with Mrs. Fox- 
borough, and so I was at fault." 

" My husband is the proprietor of 
the Syringa, Mr. Morant, and as he 
has to be a good deal away conducting 
country companies, I am usually 
manageress. But here comes Nydia 
to thank you in her own proper 
person." 

Very pretty the girl looked as she 
once more blushingly expressed her 
gratitude. "Ah, Mr. Morant," she 
said, " I am so glad you have come to 
see. us. Mamma can say for me all 
I am too foolish to say for myself. I 
am sure she has thanked you properly 
for coming to my rescue yesterday." 

Mr. Herbert Morant was as self- 
possessed a young gentleman as there 
was about town, but even he was a 
little taken aback by the expression of 
Nid's gratitude ; there was a tremor 
in her voice, and the tears stood in 
her eyes as she gave him her hand 
and uttered the above speech. The 
girl's nervous system had received a 
shock from the fright, and, as is often 
the case, she felt it more the day 
following the occurrence than at the 
time. She had told her mother her 
rescuer was not good-looking ; but he 
was her hero all the same, though an 
ugly one. Her girlish imagination 
had magnified the exploit considerably. 
It may be no great feat to knock a 
cowardly scoundrel down, but a 
woman feels great gratitude to the man 
who does that for her in her hour of 
need. To an athlete like Morant, 
who had been in his college Eight, 
been one of the best racquet players 
in the University, and had always en- 
joyed the reputation of being very 
smart with the gloves, it appeared a 
very small matter ; but Nid viewed it 
in a very different light. 

" You are making much of a trifle," 
he rejoined gaily, at last. " You don't 
know what relief it is catching a fellow 
to knock down occasionally — an im- 
pudent rough, or something of that 
kind — quite an outlet to the suppressed 



energy of my nature. I am afraid I 
shall recover no more of your proper- 
ties, and that you must be content to 
suffer the loss of your purse." 

" We dine what no doubt you will 
call very early, Mr. Morant. It was 
a necessity of my vocation at one time, 
and has now become habit with me. 
If you will take us as you find us, we 
shall be very glad if you will join u? 
and accompany us to the Syringa 
afterwards. I must go there to-night 
to keep my eye on things." 

The genial, off-hand manner in 
which the invitation was given would 
have impelled most men to accept it, 
and Herbert Morant closed at once 
with the offer. Mrs. Foxborough had 
no reason to mistrust her manage, nor 
could any one reasonably have com- 
plained of the neat little dinner her 
cook served up. Mr. Morant, at all 
events, was perfectly satisfied with this 
the immediate result of his adventure. 
His hostess could be excessively plea- 
sant when she liked, and upon this 
occasion it pleased her to be so. Not 
only was she under some obligation to 
the young man, but his quiet, easy 
assurance, without a particle of either 
swagger or affectation, amused her. 
Herbert Morant, indeed, with his per- 
fectly unconscious manner, could 
perpetrate in society without giving 
offence what would have been deemed 
impertinence in another. This, though 
in some measure the result of manner 
at first, was to some extent a matter 
of calculation now. He was licensed 
in his own set to do cool things, and 
he did them. Society as usual, when 
two or three of its leaders have ac- 
cepted eccentricities from any one, 
followed suit, and it was " only Her- 
bert Morant's way " was the conven- 
tional explanation of anything that 
gentleman might choose to do. He 
was careful not to abuse the privilege 
he had somehow acquired, and if he 
did cool things he took care they 
should never be offensive. In fact, he 
was a very popular man, and his table 
in Morpeth Terrace was usually pretty 
well covered with cards of invitation. 
The talking at dinner was chiefly done 
by Mrs. Foxborough and her guest. 
She was a quite, clever woman, and 
though she knew but little of his 
world, she contrived that the conver- 



20 



AT FAULT 



sation should turn mostly in that 
direction. She was much more au 
fait of what was going on in London 
generally than most of her class, 
whose knowledge and interest are 
usually confined exclusively to the 
doings of the profession in its various 
branches. He was candour itself. He 
made no secret of his position in any 
way ; he owned that his means were 
very moderate, that he was a great 
fool not to follow a profession or busi- 
ness of some sort ; but said gravely 
that he never could quite make up his 
mind whether to make profit out of 
people's litigious tempers, their ail- 
ments, their spiritual necessities, or 
their credulity. The result was that 
he had embarked in no calling what- 
ever, and was still considering how 
to make that fortune which he de- 
clared would require no consideration 
about spending. 

" Now what do you think, Mrs. 
Foxborough ? What should you re- 
commend me to turn my ever-wander- 
ing attention to ? I've implicit belief 
in myself in any capacity, and that, as 
a rule, usually insures the belief of the 
public." 

" Upon my word, I cannot say," 
laughed the lady. " In my case I 
only know belief in oneself is by no 
means so readily reciprocated by the 
public, otherwise there are ladies I 
have met with who would occupy a 
very different position on the stage, 
oh ! yes, and men too. Vanity is no 
specialty of our sex." 

" No, I quite agree with you there. 
A woman is apt to be vain of her 
appearance, but, bless you, there's no 
end to our conceits. Our good looks, 
our talents, accomplishments, mean- 
ing a capacity for lawn tennis and 
valsing. I know one man who is vain 
about his collars, and another who 
piques himself on his boots. Oh ! no, 
Mrs. Foxborough, you can't give us 
points about that." 

" I am glad you admit it, for, 
honestly, in my profession I declare 
there is not a pin to choose about 
vanity between the sexes, nor about 
jealousy neither." 

" Yes," rejoined Morant, " I have 
always understood theatrical people 
were very sensitive to criticism on 
their efforts, but it has never been my 



good fortune to encounter them be- 
fore to-night," and here he bent his 
head laughingly to his hostess. " Do 
you mean to enter the profession, 
Miss Foxborough ? " 

" Oh ! that is still in the same cate- 
gory as your own start in life, Mr. 
Morant — not yet decided." 

" Nid can do just as she likes," in- 
terposed her mother. " She has no 
need to go on the stage, as I had, nor 
is she ever likely to have ; but if she 
does, I insist on the legitimate theatre, 
my dear. I'll not have you in the 
music-hall business. I was glad to 
take an opening where I could, and 
when my chance of an engagement 
for a regular theatre came, found that 
I could command a much higher 
salary where I was. We can always 
find an opening for you if you wish 
to try the boards, and then, dear 
child, you can give it up if you don't 
like it. And now, Mr. Morant, we 
will leave you to your coffee and 
cigarette for ten minutes, while we 
get our hats on, and then it will be 
time to go down to the Syringa. 
Come, Nid," and the two ladies left 
the room. 

"Well," muttered Mr. Morant, as 
he lazily inhaled his cigarette, " I 
have been some years making up 
my mind with regard to a profession, 
but it strikes me that the stage is 
about my form. Deuced nice little 
dinner. I'd like to be insured cham- 
pagne as good all the year round, 
and, by Jove ! what a charming 
woman the mother is ! and as for the 
daughter, she is simply lovely. Bless 
my soul, if knocking down roughs is 
going to lead to this sort of thing only 
once in six times, I'll go into the 
business heavily. It is so easy, so 
simple— a brute of that sort, when 
you once get in a real straight one, 
has always had enough— he's always 
a cur. Upon my soul, I think Nid 
Foxborough is the sweetest girl I ever 
set eyes on. Rather fun this going 
doing to the Syringa protected by 
authorities," and here his meditations 
were cut short by the opening of the 
door, and an intimation from the par- 
lour-maid that the brougham was at 
the door. He threw the fragment of 
his cigarette into the empty grate, and, 
proceeding to the hall, found the 



PERILS OF THE PARKS 



21 



ladies, hatted and shawled, awaiting 
him. 

" Trust I haven't hurried you," ex- 
claimed Mrs. Foxborough, " but you 
must bear in mind that it is business 
with me. 1 shall send you to my box 
when we get there, and leave you and 
Nid to amuse each other while I am 
engaged in my own room with various 
people." 

Now, though Mr. Morant knew the 
Syringa very well by name, he had 
never been there. He had heard it 
mentioned at times by some of the 
fastest of his acquaintance, young men 
who were perpetually ransacking the 
town in pursuit of novelty, as a fine 
music-hall, but he had expected to see 
a very much rougher place, and was 
quite unprepared for the gorgeously 
decorated and spacious theatre the 
place really was, for the Syringa re- 
joiced in a large stage and elaborate 
scenery, and as nearly enacted stage 
plays as it dared to do ; indeed, Mr. 
Foxborough had for the last twelve 
months been thinking seriously about 
applying for a license, and turning it 
into a bond fide theatre. But then, as 
his wife urged, there was a risk about 
this— the place was a very paying, 
thriving concern as it was; turn it into 
a theatre, and it might cease to be so, 
and nobody knew better the marvel- 
lous uncertainty that characterizes 
matters theatrical than Jim Fox- 
borough. 

Seated in an extremely well-fitted 
stage-box, looking lazily on at a 
ballet, as well mounted as could be 
seen at any West-end theatre, and 
tete-ci-tete with his pretty companion, 
Herbert Morant felt that he had in- 
deed fallen on his legs, and that his 
interposition in favour of injured in- 
nocence was bountifully rewarded. 
" If those knights of the Round Table 
got half such payment in kind, Miss 
Foxborough, as you and your mother 
have bestowed upon me this evening, I 
don't give them much credit for riding 
up and down to right wronged mai- 
dens." 

" I suppose the damsels they res- 
cued ministered to their wants," re- 
plied Nid, "though perhaps they did 
not comprise cigarettes and music- 
halls." 

" Hush, Miss Foxborough : you 



must not speak lightly of the 
laureate." 

" Oh dear ! Who commenced, I 
should like to know ? Yesterday, 
when I was frightened, I could have 
given you my glove to wear in your 
helm— that is, hat— if you had asked 
for it." 

" And suppose I asked for it now ?•* 

" Oh, you wouldn't ; look, it has 
eight buttons," rejoined Nid in a tone 
of mock pathos that augured well for 
her success on the stage. 

" Oh, and you don't bestow gloves 
on your champions with over two. Is 
that so ? " 

Nid nodded. " Queen Guinevere 
and her ladies, I believe, only bestowed 
mittens, and those woollen ones. I 
don't believe much in those old 
chivalry myths." 

" What a shocking little pagan 
you are ! " replied Morant, laughing. 
" Your opinions would be scouted in 
society, where we believe in old pic- 
tures, old furniture, old books, old 
china, in short, everything that savours 
of antiquity. Have you a fancy for 
going on the stage ? " 

" Yes, I should like to test my 
abilities in that way. What ambitious 
girl, brought up as I have been, 
would not ? I don't mean in this 
sort of theatre ; but where does a 
woman find the world so immediately 
at her feet as a successful act,ress ? 
The sovereignty of the queen of the 
stage is, according to the little I know, 
more gratifying to the vanity of a 
woman than that of the real queens 
of the world." 

Herbert Morant stared amazed. 
How could this child of sixteen have 
arrived at this worldly knowledge? 

At last he said, — 

" These, Miss Foxborough, are not 
your own thoughts. You are quoting 
your mother, surely ? " 

" No ! but you are right, those are 
not my own ideas ; they are my 
father's. I have heard him talk on 
the subject so often I am scarce 
likely to forget his arguments. Still, 
though I know it would please him to 
see me a great success on the sta;^e, 
yet I know I can do just as I like 
about it." 

" And you mean to try it ? " 

" Perhaps. I don't know. Of course, 



22 



AT FAULT 



I have been to a great extent trained 
for it. A pity so much good instruc- 
tion should be thrown away, don't you 
think so ? " said Nid, with an interro- 
gative upraising of her pretty brows. 

"It is not for me to advise, but it 
struck me, Mrs. Foxborough did not 
much favour the idea," replied Morant ; 
" but surely there is somebody bowing 
to you," and he called Nid's attention 
to a gentleman in the stalls, who was 
evidently striving to attract her atten- 
tion. 

" Mr. Cudemore," said the girl 
quietly, as she acknowledged his bow ; 
" he is a friend of papa's. I don't 
quite know what he is, but either a 
theatrical agent or provincial mana- 
ger, or something of that kind." 

A dark, slight, wiry man, with a de- 
cidedly Jewish cast of countenance, 
Mr. Cudemore was somewhat striking- 
looking, and that was probably the 
reason why he had attracted Morant's 
attention. It was not that he was re- 
markably ugly, far from it — he was 
rather the reverse ; but the keen, dark 
eyes, the slightly curved nose, and the 
thin compressed lips, gave a cruel, 
hawk-like expression to his counten- 
ance. He showed very white, regular 
teeth when he smiled, and he was 
both lavish of smiles, and amazingly 
silky in manner, but a physiognomist 
would have suspected a touch of the 
tiger under all this purring, and been 
quitfe prepared to find him cruel, rapa- 
cious, and vindictive, and they would 
have been right. Clever and unscru- 
pulous, he lived upon the weaknesses 
of his fellow-creatures, and had de- 
rived much profit from theatrical 
speculations. His plan was to ad- 
vance money to people desirous of 
opening theatres ; he would accom- 
modate rising actors or dramatists, 
but the borrowers invariably found 
the bond carried terrible interest, and 
that Cudemore exacted it to the utter- 
most farthing, while as a rule he took 
very good care to protect himself 
against much possibility of loss. In 
short, the man, though he usually 
termed himself a theatrical agent, was 
in reality a theatrical money-lender, 
and many a successful artist had 
groaned for some years under the 
lien Mr. Cudemore held over his 
salary, obtained before he had made 



a name, and when money was hard to 
come by, as it is usually in our early 
days, let our calling be what it may. 
A man this destined to have much 
influence on the lives of the pair now 
looking so nonchalantly at him from 
that stage-box at the Syringa. 

However, Herbert Morant troubled 
himself but little about Mr. Cudemore 
just then. Turning to his companion, 
" Do you come here very often ? " he 
asked. 

" No ; nor does mamma either. She 
only comes about twice a week, except 
when she is in the bill : then she comes 
every night, and I come very often. 
I like to hear her sing, and I love to 
see the reception she gets. She is a 
great favourite, Mr. Morant." 

" I know she is, for though I never 
was here before, I have heard her 
elsewhere. What a very fine hall it 
is!" 

" Is it not ? and it's all papa's do- 
ing," rejoined Nid, with some little 
justifiable pride. 

At this moment Mrs. Foxborough 
entered the box. 

" Well, Mr. Morant, I trust you have 
been fairly amused. These trapeze 
people are clever, are they not ? As 
soon as they are finished I think, Nid, 
we will be off. I should like to get 
away before the crowd comes out, and 
the brougham is at the stage door." 

" I am quite ready, mamma," replied 
the girl, rising. 

"Come, then. Good -night, Mr. 
Morant." 

But Herbert Morant insisted on 
seeing the ladies to their carriage, 
and when they shook hands, Mrs. 
Foxborough said they should always 
be glad to see him at Tapton Cottage, 
and Nid smiled an endorsement of 
the invitation. 



CHAPTER III 

THE BATJMBOROUGH PARLIAMENT 

There were days lang syne when the 
Municipal Council of Baumborough 
had droned and dozed and wrangled 
over paving and lighting rates, but 
such debating as that had been long 
relegated to the past, and discussion 



THE BAUM BOROUGH PARLIAMENT 



23 



now was as lively, acrimonious, and 
personal as it is apt to be at St. 
Stephen's. The member for Pickleton 
Ward would express his opinion of 
" the little job " ; the member for the 
Stannagate was seeking to impose 
upon the Council in terms more forc- 
ible than polite. The member for the 
Stannagate might have no motive of 
the kind in the matter he wished to 
carry, but the member for Pickleton 
Ward had determined to denounce it 
as a job, as giving more scope for that 
fiery and scathing eloquence which he 
was conscious of possessing. Local 
politics ran high in Baumborough, and 
its citizens, marching with the times, 
had of late years found their tongues, 
and were enamoured of the sound of 
their own sweet voices. Some of the 
seniors were wont to recall times when 
there was considerably less verbiage 
about their proceedings, and consider- 
ably more business got through at a 
sitting, and to hint that all these for- 
malities had come into vogue with the 
present Town Clerk ; for there was 
no denying now that the Baumborough 
Municipal Council imitated the great 
Legislative Council of the nation as 
closely as might be, and members 
were constantly moving and dividing 
over amendments, and indulging in 
vituperation and motions for adjourn- 
ment, and, in fact, showed a happy 
appetite for the science of obstruction 
as invented by their betters, most 
creditable to their intelligence. What- 
ever they might have done in former 
days, nobody could say proposed 
changes or improvements were not 
amply ventilated now ; the erection of 
an additional lamp-post, or a new 
pump constituting quite sufficient 
matter for floods of speechifying and 
much patriotic invective. 

That such a scheme as the building 
of a theatre should occasion much 
commotion and stormy debate amid 
an excitable body like the Town 
Council of Baumborough may easily 
be imagined ; not a city father of the 
lot but had much to say both for or 
against the affair, and seemed most 
determinedly bent, too, upon saying 
it : and the less he knew of the sub- 
ject the more he, seemed to have to 
say. The Parliament was about 
equally divided concerning it. While 



the member lor the Stannagate pro- 
nounced that it would afford much 
intellectual pleasure to the inhabitants 
of Baumborough and its neighbour- 
hood, besides being a steady, if 
modest, augmentation of revenue, the 
member for Pickleton Ward de- 
nounced the whole thing as the most 
bare- faced, flagrant piece of jobbery 
that had occurred within his memory. 
It was not wanted, it could never be 
made to pay, it would require an ad- 
ditional rate, and a very heavy rate too, 
to sustain this white elephant that 
some weak-minded members had been 
gulled into giving their support to. 
The day on which the decision was to 
be finally arrived at had at last come, 
and it was known that both parties 
meant to put forth all their strength, 
and it was announced that Mr. Stan- 
ger, the member for Pickleton Ward, 
would come out uncommonly strong, 
and deliver a regular flagellation to 
the unfortunate Brocklebank, the 
member for the Stannagate, the lead- 
ing supporter of the scheme ; for in 
his position as Town Clerk, John 
Fossdyke took care never to lead the 
movement of which he was the in- 
spiration ; he pulled the strings, had 
much to say to the ultimate vote, 
spoke sparingly, and gave the leader 
he selected his brief on these occa- 
sions ; but he kept himself far more 
in the background than his real power 
and position warranted. The conse- 
quence of this was that the majority 
of the Council had no idea of how very 
much he had to say to the decisions 
they came to. 

Mr. Fossdyke was there to-day, 
calmly prepared for the battle. He 
had his plans and estimates all ready 
to lay before the Council ; had con- 
ferred long and earnestly with Mr. 
Brocklebank, whom he had selected 
to bring the scheme forward ; and, as 
he told his friend Dr. Ingleby, was 
determined to carry his point. 

" I am not quite clear that Baum- 
borough wants a theatre," rejoined 
the doctor; "and I don't suppose 
Baumborough can tell till it's got 
one. It's the old story of Sam Slick. 
People can get along without a clock 
who've never had one, but let them 
once get used to having one in the 
house, and they can't do without it 



2 4 



AT FAULT 



Of course I shall back you, but it will 
be a close fight." 

" It will be a fight, but I shall win, 
and if 1 don't win this time I shall 
fight it over and over again until I do 
succeed," said Mr. Fossdyke. 

The meeting commenced, and the 
Town Clerk, having briefly observed 
that he had procured the plan and 
estimates for the building in accord- 
ance with the directions given him by 
the Council at their last meeting, 
placed them on the table and sat 
down. In an instant Mr. Brocklebank 
was on his feet, and commenced a 
flowery speech, in which all the cut- 
and-dried arguments in favour of the 
stage were recapitulated — "how it 
held the mirror of truth and nature up 
to mankind, and in depicting the con- 
sequences of yielding to unbridled 
passions it preached as impressive a 
warning as could be delivered from 
the pulpit ; how it afforded elevated 
and intellectual amusement, which 
tended to make men, ay, and women 
too, better and wiser ; how that in 
thus interesting the lower classes you 
were weaning them from the public- 
houses, and awaking them, if he might 
be allowed to say so, to a higher in- 
telligence. Should a town like Baum- 
borough, the rapid increase of which 
was one of the many marvels of our 
great and glorious country, be the 
only town of similar population with- 
out a Thespian Temple? Gentlemen," 
continued the orator, warming to his 
work, " the theatre has been a promi- 
nent feature in all great civilizations. 
Any Roman town of the slightest im- 
portance boasted its theatre. Partem 
et circenses was the universal cry of 
that turbulent capital — that grand 
people, gentlemen, holding that the 
intellectual food of the play-house was 
as necessary as the very staple of life 
itself." (Hear, hear, and cheers from 
the Brocklebank faction, mingled with 
an ironical " Oh, oh," from Mr. Stan- 
ger.) " Commercially, there can be no 
doubt about its being a great success. 
Mr. Fossdyke proposes that we should 
borrow six thousand pounds on the 
security of our rates, with which to 
erect and decorate the building, and 
the estimate, as you see, is well inside 
that. The corner of the Market-place, 
which he has selected as a site, is 



already the property of the town. We 
shall have no difficulty in borrowing 
the sum at a trifle over four per cent., 
or, I am assured, in letting the theatre 
at a rent that will return us six per 
cent, for our money. If at the expira- 
tion of three years the theatre is the 
great success which I have no doubt 
it will be, we may look forward to 
raising the rent, or undertaking the 
concern ourselves ; in the first case, it 
may be safely assumed we shall turn 
ten per cent, on our capital, and in 
the latter, that is, if we elect to take 
the thing into our own hands, twenty. 
The arguments I have laid before you, 
gentlemen, are in my opinion con- 
clusive as an improvement to the 
town, as a vehicle of culture, or as a 
mere commercial speculation, it is in- 
cumbent on Baumborough to have a 
theatre" (an audible "Bosh !" from Mr. 
Stanger) ; "and in conclusion I might 
add that nobody is more likely to be 
extensively benefited by it than the 
member for Pickleton Ward, the 
elevation of whose English is much to 
be desired." 

"I said 'bosh,' sir," exclaimed Mr. 
Stanger, springing angrily to his feet. 
"I believe that to be a good dictionary 
word, and eminently descriptive of the 
farrago of nonsense to which we have 
just listened.'' 

Cries of "Order" and "Gutter Eng- 
lish" from Mr. Brocklebank. 

" Mr. Mayor," continued the now 
thoroughly exasperated Stanger, " I 
venture to request the attention of the 
honourable gentlemen present for a 
few minutes while I expose the tissue 
of lies" (Cries of" Order, order"), " I 
mean to say, sir, fallacies that the 
member for Stannagate has just 
spoken. To begin with, he talks the 
usual 'bosh' — I repeat 'bosh'; it may 
be gutter English, but it is tolerably 
well understood English — about the 
elevation of the masses, culture, etc. 
But, sir, a theatre means simply a 
show that will pay ; and a manager 
that knows his work gives the public 
what pulls 'em in and draws their 
money. As for preaching an impres- 
sive lesson, an improving lesson, I 
have always been given to understand 
the play of ' Jack Sheppard ' induced 
many youths to take up burglary as a 
trade." (" Monstrous, ridiculous, ab- 



THE BAUMBOROUGH PARLIAMENT 



25 



surd," from Mr. Brocklebank.) "If 
ridiculous, why did the Lord Cham- 
berlain prohibit the piece ? Answer 
me that !" and Mr. Stanger brought 
his fist down on the table with a 
vehemence that made the inkstands 
dance. " I believe ' George H.irn- 
well ' had no salutary effect, and that 
'Dick Turpin ' was demoralizing" 
(" Pooh, a mere circus piece," from 
the Brocklebank faction) ; " and who, 
I ask, gentlemen, is to guarantee this 
theatre won't be a circus ? Drury 
Lane has been a circus," and once 
more the inkstands jigged in response 
to Mr. Stanger's fist. "Commercially, 
I tell you, the whole affair is a sham. 
The town can't support a theatre, and 
it will never return the bare interest 
on the original debt, let alone a profit. 
And now, gentlemen, I come to the 
windiest part of this very windy gentle- 
man's speech. He has favoured us 
with some classical reminiscences. I 
had not the good fortune of a university 
education, which he doubtless had." 
(Ironical cheers from the Stanger 
party, who were well aware the mem- 
ber for Stannagate got his education 
at Baumborough Grammar School.) 
" I can't quote Latin like my gifted 
friend, but am free to confess that, as 
far as I recollect, the old Roman mob 
war-cry he quoted might be freely 
translated ' prog and circuses.' Gentle- 
men, do you contemplate keeping 
your poor in idleness and running 
this theatre for their amusement, or 
do you not ? If you don't I move, as 
an amendment to the motion of the 
member for Stannagate, that it be 
consigned to the like obscurity from 
which its proposer sprung." 

Shouts of " Order, order," " Go 
on," " Hooray," and excuses, etc. 

" Mr. Mayor," stuttered Brockle- 
bank, purple with wrath, and rising 
to his feet, " I protest " 

" Spoke, spoke, divide, divide," 
chorussed the meeting generally. 

" Mr. Mayor," suddenly exclaimed 
Dr. Ingleby, in those quiet, resonant, 
even tones, to which the turbulent 
meeting were well accustomed, " di- 
vested of acrimony and embellish- 
ments, this question seems to me to 
be in a nutshell— first, does Baum- 
borough require a theatre, or does it 
not ? In my humble opinion it ought 



to have one. Secondly, can the Mu- 
nicipal Council supply that require- 
ment ? to which again I answer 
decidedly. I fancy the concern will 
always return a fair interest for our 
outlay, and we don't look to more on 
improvements " ; and here the doctor 
dropped quietly back into his seat. 

" I have only one word to add," 
observed John Fossdyke, rising in his 
turn, " and that is to thoroughly en- 
dorse all my friend Dr. Ingleby has 
said, with this slight addenda, that I 
firmly believe it will be speedily found 
to prove a most paying investment." 

" Might I ask, sir," inquired Mr. 
Totterdell (he had carried his point 
and achieved a seat on the Council), 
" whether Mr. Fossdyke has any 
previous experience of theatrical mat- 
ters to warrant our belief in his 
opinion ?" 

The Town Clerk's brow darkened, 
but he remained mute to the appeal. 

"The question seems to me out of 
order," said the Mayor, "unless Mr. 
Fossdyke wishes to explain himself 
upon that point." 

" I never give explanation to imper- 
tinent curiosity," rejoined the Town 
Clerk curtly. 

" I think, gentlemen, the sooner we 
come to a decision the better," said the 
Mayor ; " there seems to be a bitter- 
ness imported into the question which 
I am at a loss to account for." 

A good stock speech this of the 
Mayor's, and one which he had occa- 
sion to deliver on most occasions, 
inasmuch as discussion in the parlia- 
ment of Baumborough meant, to its 
councillors generally, the releasing of 
much bile and personality, and the 
present meeting would have been 
characterized by its members as lively, 
but kept well within the bounds of 
decorum ; and now came the decision 
— a close thing, as Dr. Ingleby had 
predicted, but the Brocklebank party 
were successful, and the building of a 
theatre was carried. 

Very jubilant looked John Fossdyke 
as he rose in response to the Mayor's 
invitation to enter into the details of 
how he proposed to raise the funds 
for the carrying out of his new hobby, 
for that this was a hobby of the Town 
Clerk's was well known to every man 
in the room. Men are wont to look 



26 



AT FAULT 



exultant when they carry their point, 
and yet there are often times when 
defeat would profit them more. Vic- 
tory has wrecked many a throne and 
many a ministry ; it is not sometimes 
till the battle is over that we find out 
what success has cost us, and the 
sight of the bill makes men ofttimes 
curse the hour they threw themselves 
into the fray. Triumphant is John 
Fossdyke just now, but he little dreams 
how speedily his account will be sub- 
mitted to him for settlement. 

He rises jauntily, and explains that 
for a prosperous town like Baum- 
borough, with no liabilities worth men- 
tioning, to borrow money on its rates 
at very moderate interest is the sim- 
plest and easiest of financial opera- 
tions. He himself can, without diffi- 
culty, in the course of a few days, find 
people who will gladly advance the 
money required at four, or, at the 
outside, four and a half per cent. ; 
indeed, he observes, the sole delay 
about the business will be occasioned 
— and here John Fossdyke favours the 
meeting with a jocular smile — in the 
haggling over the interest. " In short, 
gentlemen, it will probably take a few 
days for us to argue out a matter of 
£30 or so, and I think you may depend 
upon my attending carefully to your 
interests." 

" But, Mr. Mayor, I would respect- 
fully ask to submit one question to the 
meeting," bleated Mr. Totterdell. " I 
see by the half-yearly reports we have 
a sum of ,£5,400 lying at mortgage at 
four and a half per cent, on those new 
buildings connected with the railway. 
Would it not be more advisable to call 
that in than to borrow money?" 

"Yes, Mr. Totterdell, that is quite a 
subject for the consideration of the 
meeting. Perhaps it would be better 
to invest that money in a theatre than 
to raise money for the purpose." 

Again did John Fossdyke's brow 
darken as, with some little irritation 
palpable in his tones, he replied that 
notice had to be given about the 
calling in of mortgages, and that im- 
plied time. It was impossible that 
money could be available for some 
months, and he trusted now the theatre 
was decided upon, that it would be 
built and open ere that. He was an 
advocate for carrying things out at 



once, and not being a year before a 
resolution was acted on. Now all this 
was nothing to the member for Pickle- 
ton Ward ; but Mr. Stanger, always 
restless and irritable under defeat, 
thought he saw some possibility of 
annoying his opponents, at all events 
John Fossdyke, by advocating Mr. 
Totterdell's proposal. He was on his 
legs in an instant. 

" If," he said, " a mortgage requires 
notice to call in, a theatre requires 
time to build, nor is it customary to 
pay the contractor till the contract is 
completed. The contractor may de- 
mand an advance on work done, no 
doubt, but our credit is good enough 
with the local banks for such short ac- 
commodation as that implies. I most 
emphatically support Mr. Totterdell's 
suggestion, and beg that he will make 
a motion to that effect." 

" Would Mr. Totterdell make a 
motion ? " Would he not — or half a 
dozen of them at the slightest en- 
couragement. He got rosy red with 
excitement ; he fussed and plumed 
himself like the elderly turkey-cock he 
was, and he gobble, gobble, gobbled, 
and clucked as he got up to put his 
first resolution to the Council. This 
was the dream of his life, and he felt 
at last he was a factor in the govern- 
ment of his country. Baumborough 
might rejoice in a caucus some day, 
and he be the manipulator of it. Who 
could tell ? In the meantime no neo- 
phyte at St. Stephen's, whose maiden 
speech had the approbation of the 
Prime Minister, could have felt more 
thoroughly devoted to the man who 
had fully recognised his ability. Hence- 
forth Mr. Totterdell was bound to the 
wheels of Mr. Stanger's chariot, and 
would throw in his lot with that 
gentleman. 

There was much desultory discussion 
about Mr. Totterdell's motion ; and 
although, as far as he dared put him- 
self forward, John Fossdyke strongly 
opposed it, neither Brocklebank nor 
his friends could see the slightest ob- 
jection to such an arrangement, and it 
was consequently carried by a con- 
siderable majority. There were two 
men who walked away from the meet- 
ing of the Baumborough parliament 
that day who had both carried their 
points, and who were both destined 



MONEY NEVER WAS SCARCER 



27 



speedily to regret such triumph. The 
one exulted much in his victory ; the 
other was already conscious that it 
was Quatre Bras before Waterloo. 
Mr. Totterdell was jubilant over the 
success of his motion ; but John Foss- 
dyke wished grimly he had never 
advocated the building of a theatre 
in Baumborough. 



CHAPTER IV 

"money never was scarcer" 

Mrs. Foxborough was sitting quietly 
in her drawing-room chatting with 
Nid, about a week after the latter's 
adventure in the Regent's Park, when 
a cab pulled up with a sharp jerk at 
the door, speedily followed by a sono- 
rous application of the knocker. Mrs. 
Foxborough started. "That's your 
father, Nid ! " she exclaimed ; and 
dashing out of the room, found herself 
immediately enfolded in the arms of 
a dark, stalwart, florid-complexioned 
man, who kissed her with unmistak- 
able warmth. 

" Nid, darling, he continued, releas- 
ing his wife to embrace his daughter. 
" No need to ask how you are, child. 
You look more blooming and bonny 
every time I come back." 

" You have no business to go away, 
papa," pouted Nid. " You can't ima- 
gine what ailments I suffer from in 
your absence." 

" I have business, that's just what 
takes me away," laughed James Fox- 
borough ; " but I suppose, my dear, 
you can give me something to eat, for 
I am outrageously hungry." 

" Of course ; just go and sit down 
and talk to Nid for a few minutes, and 
I'll see about it at once. You sha'n't 
have long to wait." 

That James Foxborough should ap- 
pear suddenly and without warning in 
his home occasioned no surprise ; it 
was his way, he hated letter-writing, 
was a very bad correspondent, and 
seldom gave intimation of his return 
till his hand was on the knocker. 
Even his wife was often in complete 
ignorance of his whereabouts for weeks. 
She was used to it, and though she 
occasionally declared she might as 
well have married a ship captain, never 



worried her spouse about his short- 
comings in the epistolary way. By 
the expiration of Nid's narrative of 
her misadventure, and how Sir Lan- 
celot had come to her rescue, a story 
which seemed to interest her father 
considerably, Mrs. Foxborough an- 
nounced that refreshments were ready 
for the traveller, and the three ad- 
journed to the dining-room. 

"And has he called since to inquire 
after the distressed damsel whom he 
succoured ? " 

" Indeed, he has," replied Mrs. Fox- 
borough, " half a dozen times, and we 
have got quite to like him. Nid, who 
was in a great state of mind at first 
that her hero should not be up to her 
standard of masculine beauty, has 
got reconciled to his red hair at last, 
I believe." 

" It isn't very red, you know, mam- 
ma," said the girl, " and I declare he's 
not half bad-looking." 

" Morant, Herbert Morant. I've a 
hazy idea I know something about 
some Morants. I must ask.' 

" Don't flatter yourself that you are 
going to discover he is heir to a large 
fortune, because he says he's not ; and 
though I'm sure he's awfully clever, 
he don't seem quite to know how to 
turn his abilities to account," continued 
Nid. " It is embarrassing, that, you 
know, papa ; I really should not know 
myself whether to embark in tragedy 
or comedy." 

"Tragedy, child, with your figure," 
cried her father, laughing. 

" I won't be laughed at," cried the 
girl, with a petulant shrug of her 
shoulders. " I'm not so very small as 
all that, and I'm not done growing 
yet — I presume I'm big enough for 
Juliet, any way." 

li Never mind, darling, it will be 
time enough to think of that a year or 
two hence. Have you seen or heard 
anything of Cudemore lately, Nydia? 
I want to see him if he is in town." 

" Yes ; he was at the Syringa about 
three weeks since, and has called here 
twice since. Once we were out, and 
once we saw him. I don't care much 
about him myself, Jim ; but, of course, 
I know he is a business friend of 
yours, and therefore I am always 
civil ; still I don't want him hanging 
round here." 



28 



Al FAULT 



"I shouldn't think he's very likely 
to trouble you in that way,' 1 replied 
Foxborough. 

" I don't know," replied his wife 
significantly. 

" He really is a nuisance, papa; and 
Mr. Morant, who met him the last 
time he was here, denounced him as 
an awful — an awful, what was it ? Oh 
yes, I know — cad." 

" Well, it is necessary that I should 
see him on a little matter of business. 
In the meanwhile, how is the Syringa 
doing ? " 

" Very well indeed. I don't say we 
haven't done better, but we can't com- 
plain. I'll just get the books and run 
over them with you. The receipts are 
well ahead of the outgoings." 

" If you two are going to talk busi- 
nest, I shall run away till you have 
done," cried Nid. 

" Do, my dear," replied her mother. 
" We sha'n't be very long, but your 
father and I must have a business 
talk, and perhaps the sooner it's over 
the better. You don't want Cudemore 
to find you money, do you ? " she 
inquired anxiously, as Nid left the 
room. 

"That's just it," replied her hus- 
band. 

" Oh dear, James ! You know what 
a terrible price he always makes us 
pay for it. I was in hopes now we 
were at last clear, that we should 
never have to go to him again. Be- 
sides, look at the books, there's a real 
good balance at the bank. Leave me 
^500 to go on with, and you can take 
the rest. I must have something in 
hand in case of a bad time at the 
Syringa — the salary list is so large." 

" It's not near enough, Nydia ; I 
want a good deal more than that." 

" Why, surely you can't have had 
such a disastrous campaign as that. 
I don't know where you've been ex- 
actly ; I never do know, but " 

" Tut, tut," he interrupted, " this is 
a different thing altogether. I am 
suddenly called upon to find money 
for a speculation I embarked in some 
years ago." 

" But raise it somewhere else, Jim. 
I have particular reasons for wishing 
you not to get deep in Cudemore's 
bioks just now." 

" Why particularly just now ?" with 



a look of no little surprise. " It's bad 
any time, I grant you ; but why worse 
now ? " 

" Because, you see, Nid is fast be- 
coming a woman, and 1 feel pretty 
sure that Mr. Cudemore admires her." 

" Why, she's a mere child yet, and 
as for Cudemore, he's old enough to 
be her father," exclaimed Foxborough 
in utter bewilderment. 

" Nid wants only a few days of seven- 
teen and Mr. Cudemore, though much 
older than her, is only some five or 
six-and-thirty after all. 1 don't think 
he would consider himself a bit too 
old to marry her." 

" I don't suppose such an idea has 
ever entered his head. You women 
always think that the world is in a 
conspiracy to rob you of your daughters 
as soon as they become marriageable." 

" We are better judges than you, 
Jim, believe me," retorted Mrs. Fox- 
borough, smiling. " You men nevei 
suspect a wedding, though the whole 
preliminaries go on under your nose, 
until you're asked to the breakfast. 
Once more, 1 say, 1 am very sorry 
that you must have recourse to Mr. 
Cudemore, but if you must there's no 
use saying anything more about it." 

" You're a sensible woman, Nydia ; 
and I'd take your advice in a minute 
if I could, but I must have the money 
at once, and I do not see my way 
as to finding it without Cudemore's 
help. He'll advance it, I dare say, on 
the security of the Syringa, though no 
doubt I shall have to pay stifhsh in- 
terest." 

Mrs. Foxborough sighed. It was not 
quite two years ago since they had 
cleared off the last mortgage on the 
Syringa, and the music-hall had at last 
become to them a really lucrative pro- 
perty. Previously they had had to be 
content with scarce a moiety of the 
actual profits, Mr. Cudemore and one or 
two others sharing very considerably in 
the success of the enterprise. Itseemed 
a pity, Mrs. Foxborough thought, not 
to keep so flourishing a concern in 
their own hands, and though she was 
fain to admit that the capital which 
had enabled them to build and open 
the Syringa had been acquired by 
these country speculations of her 
husband, yet she did wish he would 
abandon them now, live quietly at 



AIOA'EY NEVER WAS SCARCER 



29 



home with her, and devote his whole 
energies to the management of the 
music hall. True, she could and did 
rule that establishment most success- 
fully herself, but she wished to have her 
husband always with her. These en- 
forced separations were all very well 
when they were battling with this 
world in their early days, but now they 
had established a business that would 
keep them comfortably, and enable 
them to provide for Nid, what more 
did they want? She was tired of this 
perpetual grass widowhood ; what 
reason now was there for its continu- 
ance ? All this did Mrs. Foxborough 
urge, by no means for the first time, 
on her husband ; but he replied that 
it was not so easy to withdraw from 
some of the speculations he had em- 
barked in as she imagined. 

" I am engaged, Nydia, in other 
things than country theatrical com- 
panies ; and though, darling, I would 
like nothing better than to do as you say, 
and have done with them all, it is just 
now as impossible as it is to do with- 
out having recourse to Cudemore." 

" I can only say once more, Jim, I'm 
awfully sorry ; but you know best. 
How long am I to have you with me 
this time ? " 

" Very few days, I am sorry to say. 
Don't look so disappointed. I shall 
settle down and become the most 
humdrum of husbands before long, I 
dare say." 

" Have you two done all your 
sums ? " laughed Nid, as she entered 
the room. " When mamma gets to 
her books, as she calls thoseawful-look- 
ing ledgers, I always run away. Do 
you know she threatened to teach me 
housekeeping the other day, and I 
felt just as 1 did before I fell sick of 
the measles." 

" It is a thing you will most likely 
find the want of some day," replied her 
mother. 

"Oh no ! oh no ! if he is not rich 
enough to keep a housekeeper he'll 
have to do the books himself," said 
Nid. " I can't add up, and 1 know 
they cheat me dreadfully in my change 
at the shops." 

" Under which circumstances," ob- 
served her father, " unless he happens 
to be wealthy I shall send him about 
his business." 



" That responsibility would rest 
with me, sir," replied Nid, with a mock 
courtesy. " Your posing as the tyran- 
nical and despotic father would make 
even the elephants at the Zoological 
over the way trumpet with indig- 
nation." 

At this moment there was a sharp 
knock at the door. 

" A little late for a visitor," ex- 
claimed Mrs. Foxborough. " 1 wonder 
who it is ?" 

"Nonsense," said Nid, "it is Mr. 
Morant, of course ; and placing herself 
at the door, she threw herself into a 
theatrical attitude, and as it opened 
exclaimed, melodramatically, " Papa, 
my preserver ! " 

If ever a young lady looked a little 
nonplussed it was Nid, as Mr. Cude- 
more quietly entered the room, and 
bowing low in answer to her exclama- 
tion rejoined, " Delighted, I am sure, 
to hear it, Miss Foxborough, although 
quite unaware I had been so fortunate. 
How do do, Foxborough," he continued, 
turning to the manager, and bowing 
to his wife. " I heard incidentally at 
the Syringa that you were back, and 
came up just to shake hands with 
you." 

Mr. Cudemore had an astonishing 
knack of hearing things incidentally. 

"Ah! I had no idea they even 
knew of my arrival, but any way you 
are just the man I want to see. Tell 
them, Nydia, to put the tray in my 
den, and when you have said ' How do 
you do ' to the ladies we will adjourn 
there for a cigar." 

That under these circumstances 
Mr. Cudemore's respects to the ladies 
was a thing speedily accomplished 
may be readily conceived, and in 
something like ten minutes he and his 
host were seated in a snug room at 
the back of the house, employed in 
the congenial task of selecting a cigar 
from one or two open boxes. 

"These if you like 'em pretty full 
flavoured, but try those small pale 
fellows if you like 'em mild, and now 
what will you take to drink ? There's 
the usual triumv'rate, brandy, gin, and 
whisky, and seltzer behind you. Help 
yourself." 

" Where have you been ? Did you 
do pretty well on tour?" inquired Mr. 
Cudemore, as he lit a cigar 



3o 



AT FAULI 



" Never mind that ; I want to talk 
to you about something else." 

" Money ? " asked Cudemore, with a 
slight elevation of the eyebrows. 
"Ah ! " he continued, in answer to the 
other's nod of assent, " I thought so. 
When people want a quiet talk with 
me it's always on that topic. Money 
never was scarcer than it is just now." 

" That, according to my experience, 
is its normal state," replied Fox- 
borough quietly, " more especially 
whenever I want to borrow any." 

" Do you want much ? " inquired the 
money-lender languidly, for Mr. Cude- 
more was not at all of the old conven- 
tional type, but rather affected the 
languid man of fashion, though his 
dark eyes watched his companion 
with a glance keen as a hawk. 

" Yes, a good bit. I want ,£6,000." 

" That'll take some finding. What 
do you want it for ? " 

" That's my affair, and no business 
of the lender. The security is." 

"Ah, yes, the security, what about 
that ? " said Cudemore softly. 

" Well, the same as before — the 
Syringa— the plant there is worth the 
money pretty well, and then there's 
the building, with, as you know, a 
pretty long lease to run, as they gave 
me a fresh one when I undertook to 
erect the present house. However, 
you know all about it ; you've had it 
in pledge before." 

" Yes ; but not for quite so heavy a 
sum, my friend." 

" No ; but you were not the sole 
mortgagee then. You will be this 
time. There's no lien whatever on the 
Hall." 

" If that's the case, I'll see what I 
can do," replied Cudemore slowly. 
" You don't want this money immedi- 
ately, I suppose?" 

" Well, no, not quite ; in a month 
or six weeks will do." 

" Very good ; I'll see about it ; but 
you'll have to pay more than five per 
cent. I don't think the security will 
be considered quite good enough to 
do it at conventional prices." 

" It should be. The security's good 
enough, and you know it," returned 
the manager. 

" It may be, but people are whimmy 
on these points, and I doubt finding a 
client except at a tempting price. You 



might die or go broke, and then there 
might be a difficulty about getting a 
good man to carry on the concern ; 
and where's the interest to come from 
if the Syringa shuts up ? " 

" They could always foreclose and 
recover their capital," retorted Fox- 
borough. 

" Oh, I don't know, nothing is so 
fluctuating in value as theatrical pro- 
perty. However, I'll do the best I 
can for you. No, nothing more, thank 
you ; it's time I was off. Good night," 
and Mr. Cudemore took his de- 
parture. 

"A point or two in my game," 
muttered that worthy, as he strolled 
homewards. " I wonder what Jim 
Foxborough wants with ,£6,000." 



CHAPTER V 

THE CRICKET MATCH 

Mr. Totterdell, having achieved, 
if not quite the object of his ambition, 
yet a provincial imitation of it, felt 
that it behoved him to be busy. Was 
he not the elect of the Town Council 
of Baumborough, and had not the 
eminent Mr. Stanger approved of his 
maiden effort at legislation ? New 
brooms are proverbial for their investi- 
gation of nooks and corners. Mr. 
Totterdell was an idle man, and, it 
may be remembered, possessed with 
an insatiable spirit of curiosity con- 
cerning his neighbours, assiduously 
inquiring into the working of local 
rates ; and the financial affairs of the 
Town Council enabled him to pick up 
information in a manner that might 
almost bear comparison with Dame 
Eleanor Spearing in Hood's famous 
" Tale of a Trumpet." The man was 
fast becoming a positive plague to 
Baumborough. 

Nothing, perhaps, puzzled Mr. Tot- 
terdell more at the time than John 
Fossdyke's extraordinary indifference 
to the erection of the theatre. He 
had been the chief promoter of the 
scheme ; he had taken a prominent 
part in carrying it through the Town 
Council, and now he seemed utterly 
indifferent as to its completion. He 
took no interest in its building, for it 
was by this time begun, and was pro- 



THE CRICKET MATCH 



3i 



gressing rapidly. He never went 
near it, and if appealed to and re- 
minded of his professed knowledge of 
things theatrical, replied, " I know 
nothing of the construction of theatres; 
such things are best left to the archi- 
tect." He had no doubt it would be 
an improvement thoroughly appreci- 
ated by Baumborough when they got 
it ; in the meantime the unfortunate 
contractor was suffering quite suffi- 
cient impediment and annoyance 
already from the interference of fussy 
busybodies without his becoming an 
additional clog on his endeavours ; 
and with this parting shot at Mr. 
Totterdell, who had gradually attained 
the position of his bete notr, the Town 
Clerk closed further discussion. 

John Fossdyke was by no means 
the only man who began to regret the 
election of Mr. Totterdell to the Town 
Council. Baumborough was probably 
no whit more corrupt than its neigh- 
bours, nor even than that great windy 
Town Council of the nation which it 
so assiduously copied ; but as every 
one knows, there is considerable give 
and take in all such assemblies, and 
an amicable understanding " that you 
wink at my little job and I wink at 
yours " is the unwritten law of all 
parliaments, local or national. But 
what was to be done with a man who, 
instead of promoting schemes of his 
own, spent his whole time in stripping 
the drapery off those of his fellows ? 
Promote what you may, and it im- 
mediately becomes your business to 
demonstrate to the public that it will 
fill their pockets ; that it will, if it 
succeeds, undoubtedly fill yours is an 
incident that it would be egotism to 
dwell upon. Mr. Totterdell, in his 
laudable desire for information and 
the doing of his duty as a Town 
Councillor, was always exposing this 
particular phase of his brethren's 
legislation ; not intentionally, but no- 
thing can lead to such mischief sooner 
than fatuous questioning in these 
matters. Even Mr. Stanger had been 
led, in a moment of exasperation at 
some unexpected sidelight being sud- 
denly cast upon some pet project of 
his own, to stigmatize Mr. Totterdell 
as " a mere malignant interrogator 
that had lately crept into their midst." 
Still, though abandoned of the great 



Stanger, Mr. Totterdell was not with- 
out a small following. There are 
always some people left out in the 
cold at all distributions of the loaves 
and fishes, and these are keenly alive 
to criticism of their more fortunate 
brethren. 

" It is a most extraordinary thing, 
Mary, that your husband should run 
away in this manner," said Mr. Totter-' 
dell, comfortably ensconced in his peti 
easy-chair in his goddaughter's draw* 
ing-room at Dyke. "This theatre 
was his own pet hobby, and now, in- 
stead of stopping to look after it, he 
goes off nobody knows where. I have 
to do everything ; the architect is very 
pig-headed, and will insist upon 
having his own way. Fossdyke knows 
I don't understand everything about 
theatres, and yet he leaves everything, 
to me. They are all alike, the whole 
Council, even Stanger gets abusive 
the minute one tries to make oneself 
useful ; called me a malignant some- 
thing or other yesterday because I 
asked a question connected with the 
paving and lighting rate. He's a 
director of the Gas Company, you 
know, and I thought was just the man 
to tell me." 

" Rumour says the Gas Company 
have got a preposterously high con- 
tract, and are making a very good 
thing out of the lighting of Baum- 
borough," said Miss Hyde, who was 
present, and appeared to possess a 
considerable sense of the ludicrous. 

"And how was I to get at that fact 
without inquiring? How does one 
get at any fact without using one's 
tongue ? " rejoined Mr. Totterdell 
testily. " Providence gave us tongues 
for the purpose of asking questions. I 
suppose you will admit that ? " 

" Well, I never heard that laid down 
as their special feature in our organi- 
zation," rejoined Bessie, laughing, 
" though I'll admit that is a use some 
of us are apt to principally put them 
to." 

"You may depend upon it, when 
you become a public man," and Mr. 
Totterdell rolled this out in unctuous 
tones, as if the eyes of Europe were 
upon him, " there is nothing like look- 
ing into things. Now there's your 
husband, Mary, a good man of busi- 
ness, no doubt, but he was about to 



3^ 



AI tAuLT 



make the mistake of levying an extra 
rate to pay for this theatre till I 
pointed out how much better it would 
be to use the money we had out at 
mortgage." 

" I don't think my husband quite 
agreed with you on that point," re- 
joined Mrs. Fossdyke. " He said 
something about the imprudence of 
trespassing on your reserve fund." 

This was rather a mild way of 
putting John Fossdyke's comments 
on Mr. Totterdell's proposal. He had 
stigmatized that gentleman to his wife 
as a doddering, inquisitive, fussy, 
mischief-making old idiot. 

" Fiddle-de-dee, I am quite as much 
a business man as John ;. but this is 
just what it is — no sooner do the 
Town Council find they have got a 
hard-working business man among 
them, than they leave him to pull the 
whole coach. Nobody ever comes 
near this theatre but me. I've half a 
mind to resign, and be pestered with 
it no longer," and Mr. Totterdell 
looked round at the two ladies a little 
inquisitively to see how they received 
this mendacious statement. 

He would no more have voluntarily 
resigned his seat in the Council than 
his life, and had a dim suspicion that 
his hearers were perfectly aware of 
that fact. 

At this moment the door opened, 
and the footman announced " Mr. 
Soames, ma'am ! " 

" Now what on earth can that 
young brewer want here again ? " 
ejaculated Mr. Totterdell. 

Mrs. Fossdyke cast a mischievous 
glance at Bessie and burst out laugh- 
ing, somewhat to the discomposure of 
the young lady, who coloured, bit her 
lips, and made a slight deprecatory 
motion of her hand as Philip Soames 
entered the room. A tall, dark, good- 
looking young fellow, and upon this 
occasion attired in flannels and white 
shoes, Phil looked the picture of a 
young athlete, and at boating, cricket, 
or lawn-tennis Phil Soames could 
hold his own very fairly. He had 
gone through the usual course of the 
offspring of the plutocracy now-a-days, 
been sent to Eton to make acquaint- 
ance with the sprouting nobility, 
graduated at Cambridge, and finally, 
after some one or two continental 



excursions, been called upon to take 
his place in the firm. There was not 
an atom of nonsense about Phil 
Soames ; he and his got their living 
by beer, and the young one had never 
had any false shame about the mash- 
tub. There was a university story 
about Phil, often quoted in his favour. 

It was at some late supper party, 
of which the majority of the company 
were of the aristocratic order, when 
some eldest scion of a ducal family 
rather twitted him with his father's 
avocation. 

"All right, Skendleby," he rejoined, 
laughing, " bear in mind the world 
grows more democratic daily, and it 
is quite possible the time will come 
when it can do without dukes, but 
there's no fear of its trying to get on 
without brewers. Hops, sir, will be 
to the fore when strawberry leaves 
are considerably at a discount." 

If Phil Soames' path in life had 
been left entirely to his own discretion 
it was odds he had elected otherwise, 
but he was a shrewd, sensible young 
man, and when it was put plainly to 
him that he ought to prepare to take 
his father's place in the very thriving 
concern the brewery was, Phil at 
once responded to the call, and went 
in with a will, as he said, to learn his 
trade. 

" I have come, Mrs. Fossdyke, to 
persuade you to honour the cricket- 
field with your presence, to remind 
you and Miss Hyde that Baum- 
borough has been bearded by Bun- 
bury, that we shall have a band 
playing all the afternoon, and tea 
properly set forth at the canonical 
hour. All Baumborough ladies are 
bound to share our triumph, or weep 
o'er our defeat. Don't you think so, 
Miss Hyde?" 

" I think we are bound to crown 
you with bays if triumphant, which 
in these days means applaud till our 
gloves split. But if beaten, Monsieur, 
don't come to us for pity ; and," she 
continued, speaking, " I'll not believe 
such a thing could be. Don't you 
remember your grand victory over the 
Bunbury men last year? Well, we 
are coming down to see you play 
another such innings, are we not, 
Mrs. Fossdyke ?" 

" Yes, Bessie, I think if Mr. Soames 




At Fault] 



He played a few balls easily.' 



[/'n,!,'f 55 



THE CRICKET MATCH 



33 



will give us some tea as he promises, 
it will be a very pleasant way of 
passing the afternoon." 

Phil Soames murmured a grateful 
assent, which was undoubtedly gen- 
uine. The recalling of our former 
triumphs by a pretty woman is one 
of the most insidious forms of feminine 
flattery, and one which, accompanied 
by a triumphant smile, as if they par- 
ticipated in the glory of the day, in- 
variably knocks over the male creature. 
It ought to be held unlawful, and 
deemed as unfair as shooting a hare 
on its seat. So it was settled that the 
whole party should come and take 
tea on the cricket-ground, and witness, 
it was to be hoped, the triumph of 
the Baumborough eleven, under the 
captaincy of Phil Soames, having ex- 
torted which promise that young 
gentleman took his departure. 

Mrs. Fossdyke had for some time 
noticed Mr. Soames's growing ad- 
miration for Bessie, and, to say the 
truth, was very well satisfied with it, 
and had encouraged it unostentatiously 
not a little. She had come to regard 
the girl almost as her own daughter, 
as also had her husband. Who had 
they to leave their money to but her, 
for neither of them had any near re- 
latives, nor did they care much about 
the few they had. Mrs. Fossdyke 
thought it would be a very suitable 
match, and though she could not but 
foresee it was quite possible the 
Soameses might not like it, yet she 
fancied Phil was a young man likely 
to insist on his own way in a point of 
this kind. She gave the young man 
credit for plenty of determination and 
strength of character, and in this she 
did him only justice. The point she 
had so far overlooked was, that Bessie 
was not Miss Fossdyke but Miss 
Hyde, and it was her godfather's 
perpetual vague inquisitiveness as to 
" where did she come from " that first 
made her remember that question 
would naturally be asked by the 
Soames family in the event of any 
engagement between Phil and Bessie. 

She questioned the girl, who ad- 
hered to her original story that she 
had been brought up by her aunt, 
and that when she grew up she had 
found that home uncomfortable. When 
questioned about her parents, Bessie 



grew strangely reticent. She believed 
her father was dead, and declined to 
say anything about her mother ; 
further than she had a mother alive, 
Mrs. Fossdyke could elicit nothing. 

Thanks to her godfather's insatiable 
curiosity, Mrs. Fossdyke found her- 
self for the first time in her life face 
to face with a mystery — nay, more, 
as she dwelt upon the fact she pic- 
tured herself surrounded by mystery. 
The situation had its charm ; to a 
woman who had so far led a humdrum 
life there was an astonishing salt given 
to existence by the very idea. Her 
imagination speedily supposed an 
occult connection between her hus- 
band's continual absences and Bessie 
Hyde — John had introduced her into 
the house. Was Bessie his daughter 
by a former wife or, more possibly, 
still living mistress ? The girl ad- 
mitted she had a mother alive, but 
declared that she had never known 
her father, and believed him to be 
dead. This staggered Mrs. Fossdyke. 
She was a clear-headed, good, plain, 
common-sense woman. She might 
not be clever, but was better calcu- 
lated to get on in this world than 
many that are. She reflected that she 
had always found Bessie Hyde emi- 
nently truthful, and the girl never 
wavered nor hesitated in her account 
of her father. About her mother she 
refused to talk, and as to what station 
in life she might be in, Mrs. Fossdyke 
could learn nothing. Still, though 
after turning it over carefully in her 
own mind the good lady discarded 
this first solution of the riddle, the 
question yet remained as to where 
did she come from, and what was the 
business that occasioned these mys- 
terious absences of her husband, and 
there was little fear that these pro- 
blems were likely to escape her mind 
while Mr. Totterdell remained a con- 
stant visitor at Dyke. 

The Baumborough cricket ground 
was a pretty sight this afternoon, 
thronged as it was with the towns- 
people and neighbourhood. It was 
very different from the great annual 
picnics at Lord's on the occasions of 
the University or Public School 
matches. Most of the ladies here 
knew something of the game, had 
relatives or friends engaged in it, for 



34 



AT FAULT 



Baumborough was situated in the hop 
counties, in which cricket had its 
birth, and is at this present more 
understanded of the people than it is 
in the north. Was it not a Maid of 
Kent who invented round-hand bowl- 
ing in accordance with the dictates of 
nature, unfavourable in women, to the 
underhand method, and laudably 
desirous of curbing the conceit of her 
brothers ? There were four marquees 
at one end of the ground. Two of 
these were dedicated to the club and 
their guests, and the other two were 
open to the public ; but all four 
seemed flowing with milk and honey. 
Two bands alternately rattled off gay, 
lively music, the one that of the Chan- 
nelshire Yeomanry from Canterton, 
the other that of " The Baumborough 
Own." 

" I'm alluding, of course, to the 
local volunteers," as the old burlesque 
song says. 

It was altogether a very pretty sight 
when Mrs. Fossdyke and Bessie, ac- 
companied by Mr. Totterdell, made 
their appearance upon the ground. It 
was an annual match, and whether 
Baumborough or Bunbury were the 
better men was a subject of consider- 
able interest to the dwellers therein. 
This year the first trial of strength 
had taken place at Bunbury, and, 
after a fiercely-contested game, had 
terminated in favour of the home 
team. That Baumborough should be 
keen to wipe off this defeat was but 
natural, and Baumborough could urge 
with justice that she had not been 
enabled to exhibit her real strength in 
the first contest. Mr. Soames had 
been prevented playing, for instance, 
in consequence of a strained wrist, 
and both as a bat and wicket-keeper 
he was an irreplaceable loss to his 
side. Bunbury had just been disposed 
of as Mrs. Fossdyke and her com- 
panions arrived upon the ground, for 
a stubborn and somewhat unexpect- 
edly protracted second innings, leav- 
ing their adversaries 153 to win. It 
was not a disheartening score alto- 
gether, but it was one that took a good 
deal of putting together among county 
elevens. Baumborough had begun so 
well, had got rid of two or three of 
their adversaries' best men at such a 
comparatively cheap rate, that they 



had felt rather astounded at the stand 
made by the tail of the Bunbury team. 
It is so at times, a good bat or two 
get set, and rather beat the bowling, 
and the last wickets knock up runs in 
an almost unaccountable fashion. But 
now it is Baumborough's turn, and 
Phil Soames sends to the wickets 
Tom Dumps, the most imperturbable 
sticker, and a Mr. Herring, a careful 
bat, one who can hit a bit when he 
gets fairly in. As for the redoubtable 
Dumps, he has been known to pass an 
afternoon at the wicket without add- 
ing twenty runs to the score. He is 
the sort of bat bowlers despise and 
hate. He never takes liberties, never 
goes out of his ground, and never hits ; 
he guards his stumps, and now and 
again pokes one successfully away for 
a single ; but he is nevertheless a very 
useful man at the start, always difficult 
to get rid of, and calculated to weary 
the attack of the enemy. Dogged, 
passive resistance is wont to aggra- 
vate, and inert defence to be the most 
exasperating of opposition, and the 
adversaries of Baumborough were al- 
ways no little pleased to get rid of 
Tom Dumps. 

" We learn from Horace, Homer 
sometimes nods," and upon this occa- 
sion the renowned Dumps was also 
caught napping, for before he had 
blocked, played, or poked some half- 
score balls, one ran up his bat and 
dropped an easy catch into the hands 
of point. There was no slight dismay 
in the Baumborough camp at this un- 
expected casualty, but when Mr. 
Herring speedily followed suit, and 
also succumbed to the enemy's bowl- 
ing, Phil Soames saw that demoraliza- 
tion was fast setting in amongst his 
followers. They were beginning to 
apprehend there must be something 
more than met the eye in the Bunbury 
bowling ; and in cricket, as in war, 
the establishment of a funk is fatal. 
Soames was equal to the occasion. 
He saw, like a great commander, that 
the time had come when it behoved 
him to place himself in front of the 
battle, and, with a few courteous words 
of apology, established Mrs. Fossdyke 
and Bessie in the ladies' tent, and, 
seizing his bat, went forth to do or die 
for Baumborough. 

Phil Soames's arrival at the wicket 



THE CRICKET MATCH 



35 



threw quite a new aspect on the game. 
He played a few balls easily, but 
quietly, just to get his eye in, and then 
he began to hit freely. His partner 
acquired confidence from the way his 
captain " slipped into " the bowling, 
and runs came fast ; and when Phil 
had to mourn his companion's depar- 
ture, the aspect of the game was 
entirely changed. The telegraph 
board showed 68 runs for three 
wickets, and the Baumborough cap- 
tain's record was " 35 not out." Fur- 
ther, his men had recovered con- 
fidence, and stood up to their adver- 
saries' attack with plenty of reliance 
on themselves. 

Mr. Totterdell meanwhile was mak- 
ing himself a most insufferable 
nuisance in the tent. It is not easy 
to explain cricket to any one who 
does not understand it, and that was 
just Mr. Totterdell's position. He 
wanted to know why a man was out ? 
Why one man went in before another? 
He wanted to know all about the 
financial state of the club, for ever 
since his memorable hit about raising 
the money for the theatre, Mr. Totter- 
dell imagined he had much genius for 
finances, and panted to reform all 
existing institutions in Baumborough 
on this head ; had, indeed, been par- 
ticularly anxious in respect to the 
calling in of that mortgage he had 
suggested to the Municipal Council, 
but the clerks in John Fossdyke's 
office declined to give him any in- 
formation in the absence of their 
principal, while two or three cronies 
to whom he mentioned it opined that 
the Town Clerk was best left to do 
the town's business. Gradually people 
steal away from Mr. Totterdell's 
vicinity. Those who, in their good 
nature, had attempted to appease his 
thirst for knowledge, felt aghast at the 
incubus they had saddled themselves 
with, and, execrating their weakness, 
passed over to the other side the 
marquee, or out into the sunshine. 
Mrs. Fossdyke alone remains near 
her godfather. 

The game is getting now highly 
exciting ; after a well-played and most 
useful innings to his side, a good many 
of whom he has seen succumb during 
his stay at the wickets, Phil Soames 
fell a victim to a smart bit of fielding 



of the Bunbury men while rashly 
endeavouring to steal a somewhat 
risky run. Quite an ovation meets 
him as he walks back to the marquee, 
which the seventy-four to his name on 
the telegraph board thoroughly justi- 
fies. Baumborough have now fifteen 
runs to get, and three wickets still to 
be disposed of. 

" Pray accept our congratulations, 
Mr. Soames," exclaimed Bessie Hyde, 
with a radiant smile, as she extended 
her hand. " You came nobly to the 
rescue at a time when things were 
looking very sad for us. We shall 
beat them now, don't you think so ? " 

"We can only hope so. It will 
probably be a very close thing. We 
have only one man we can rely on 
much for the runs left ; but have you 
had some tea ? " 

" Oh dear, yes ; I have been well 
taken care of, thank you." 

" Then come for a stroll with me. 
Now the sun is low, it is pleasanter 
outside than in the tent." 

They accordingly stepped forth 
amongst the throng that were pro- 
menading about this end of the 
cricket-field, and Soames had to stop 
more than once to receive congratula- 
tions from his enthusiastic fellow- 
townsmen on his successful innings. 

" Let us get a little out of the crowd, 
Miss Hyde. I am no doubt as con- 
ceited as most people, but I am 
ashamed to be complimented any 
more before you. I expect you t<j 
laugh at me. As if no fellow ever puv 
up seventy runs before." 

" Ah," laughed Bessie, " I am afraid 
the vanity peeps out in that very 
speech. It is not so much that you 
got seventy-four runs, but that you 
got them for Baumborough when she 
needed them sorely." 

" I stand properly rebuked," he re- 
plied, with an amused smile. " What 
a terrible analyzer of human motives 
you are ! I feel almost afraid of you. 
Don't you find it rather trying seeing 
so much of Mr. Totterdell ? I declare 
I never call at Dyke without finding 
him, and if he makes himself half as 
unpleasant there as he does in other 
places, you must have a hard time of 
it. I can't think how Fossdyke stands 
it. I don't wonder he is a good deal 
away " 



36 



AT FAULT 



" I am afraid Mr. Totterdell is 
doing unwittingly a great deal of 
mischief at Dyke," replied the girl 
gravely. 

" How so ? 

" Mr. Fossdyke dislikes him, to 
begin with ; in the next place, he is 
always inquiring into Mr. Fossdyke's 
affairs, and Mr. Fossdyke naturally 
resents that. Most men would." 

" Certainly ; but I don't see he is 
doing much mischief in that. He is 
committing an impertinence," said 
Phil, " for which John Fossdyke is just 
the man to snub him handsomely." 

" No, but he has infected Mrs. Foss- 
dyke with his own ungovernable 
curiosity, and she now has taken to 
questioning her husband about his 
business affairs. I assure you Mr. 
Totterdell has made Dyke so uncom- 
fortable that I am very much afraid I 
must leave it." 

" You leave Dyke — nonsense, Miss 
Hyde — why, how can this affect you?" 

"That I cannot tell you, but it 
does." 

They walked on for some little time 
in silence. Phil Soames was under 
no delusion with regard to his feelings 
for Bessie. He knew that he loved 
her frankly and honestly, and had 
quite made up his mind to marry her 
if he could. If he had not as yet 
asked her to be his wife it was from 
no uncertainty of purpose on his part, 
but simply because he was afraid what 
her answer might be. She liked him 
well enough, no doubt, danced a good 
deal with him, and was always well 
content to have him assigned as her 
cavalier at dinner-party or picnic, but 
he'd a shrewd suspicion Miss Hyde 
would look for rather more in a part- 
ner for life than a partner in a ball- 
room or at lawn tennis. It must be 
borne in mind that Baumborough was 
not aware of Miss Hyde's exact posi- 
tion at Dyke. They looked upon her 
as a niece or some relation of Mr. 
Fossdyke, now recognised as his 
adopted daughter, and accepted her 
as such. Baumborough, no doubt, in 
the first instance, had regarded Bessie 
as " a poor relative," and rather a 
dependant, but the way she had 
always been treated by the Fossdykes 
had speedily made them adopt the 
other view. Neither the Town Clerk 



nor his wife had ever announced 
Bessie's exact status in their house, 
but had left Baumborough to draw its 
own deductions, and Baumborough 
was certainly justified by appearances 
in the conclusion it had come to ; but 
of course the result was that Miss 
Hyde was regarded as a young lady 
who would probably bring her hus- 
band a good bit of money, not per- 
haps at the time, but in years to come. 
A pretty girl with these prospects is 
not wont to want wooers, and there- 
fore Bessie stood in a very different 
position in Phil Soames's eyes to what 
she held in reality. He doubted 
whether he had made sufficient pro- 
gress in the girl's good graces to risk 
asking her to be his wife, and thought 
a premature avowal of his love might 
be fatal to his hopes. His remark, 
when he did open his lips, was by no 
means of a sentimental character. 

" The confounded old idiot," he 
muttered half aloud. 

" You mean Mr. Totterdell, I pre- 
sume," said Bessie. " He certainly is 
not discreet, and things went on more 
pleasantly at Dyke before his arrival 
in Baumborough, undoubtedly." 

" Why on earth does not John Foss- 
dyke kick him out of the house ? " 
asked Phil. 

" He could hardly shut the door in 
the face of his wife's godfather ; and 
you might as well hint to a rhinoceros 
that he was not wanted as to Mr. 
Totterdell." 

" I'd make him understand it, 
though, if I were Fossdyke ; but 
never mind him. Why must you go?" 

" I have told you that Dyke has be- 
come so uncomfortable ; I cannot tell 
you more." 

" When do you mean going?" asked 
Phil persistently. 

"Oh, I can't say exactly; besides, 
it really can't concern you, Mr. 
Soames," replied Miss Hyde some- 
what coquettishly. 

"You know very well it concerns 
me very deeply ; you know, Bessie." 

" Stop," interrupted the girl. " I 
declare we have forgotten all about 
the cricket. What does that cheer 
mean ? Is that victory for Baum- 
borough ? " 

Phil glanced for a moment at the 
telegraph board. 



THE CRICKET MATCH 



37 



"Yes," he replied, "we have won 
by two wickets. But never mind that 
just now. I have something to say to 
you, something that I have wanted to 
say to you for some time." 

'' No, not now, please. I really 
must go and look after Mrs. Foss- 
dyke," exclaimed Bessie hurriedly ; 
and she turned abruptly to walk in 
the direction of the tents, but almost 
immediately felt her wrist clasped 
gently, but firmly. 

" I have gone too far, or not far 
enough," said Phil, in low tones. 
" You must hear me out now, Bessie." 

They had gained in their stroll the 
opposite side of the cricket-ground to 
the marquees, and that, never much 
patronized by the lookers-on, was now 
entirely deserted. 

' Stay one moment," said the girl 
quietly, releasing her wrist, and front- 
ing him ; "listen to me before you 
speak. You think I am a relative of 
Mr. Fossdyke, and his adopted 
daughter, probably heiress to his pro- 
perty. Is it not so ?" 

He bowed his head in assent. 

" I am nothing of the kind ; I am 
no relation to him whatever. I am 
Mrs. Fossdyke's paid companion, at a 
salary of eighty pounds a year, though 
she has never allowed me to realize 
the position. Now, Mr. Soames, per- 
haps you will take me across the 
ground to my mistress" and the girl 
drew herself up defiantly. 

" Yes, when I have said what I have 
got to say. What you have told me 
astonishes me somewhat, but surely, 
Bessie, you don't think so meanly of 
me as to think it could make the 
slightest difference. You know I love 
you. Bessie, will you be my wife ? " 
and as he finished he once more pos- 
sessed himself of her hand. 

She dropped her eyes, and for a few 
minutes he could see the colour come 
and go in her cheeks, and once she 
essayed vainly to speak. He could 
not understand her emotion, and when 
she at length found her voice, it came 
hard and mechanically, and she spoke 
hke one repeating a lesson. 

" I thank you deeply for the honour 
you have done me, but I cannot marry 
you, Mr. Soames." 

" Why not ? " he asked curtly, and 
in his excitement he crushed the hand 



he held almost savagely in his own. 
She uttered a slight cry and he re- 
leased her. " Is it that you cannot 
love me ? " 

" No," she replied, as her voice 
shook and the tears gathered in her 
eyes, "it is not that. 1 could love you. 
God help me, I do love you, Philip, 
but I cannot be your wife." 

" But why not ? Yod own you love 
me. In a worldly point of view I am 
well able to take care of you, and hon- 
estly hope to win the consent of the 
Fossdykes as well as your friends to 
our marriage. I love you for your 
own sweet self. What reason can 
there be that you should send me 
away miserable i" 

" I cannot tell you. I only know 
that I can never marry any one until 
he knows all about me ; and I have 
not the courage to tell my story to 
you." 

" Bessie, my darling, this is sheer 
nonsense. That you can have done 
anything in your young life that is 
bitter shame to you I'll not believe. 
You are shrinking from a phantom 
horror of your own imagining." 

" No, indeed I am not. Please, 
please, Philip, take me across to Mrs. 
Fossdyke. See, people are beginning 
to leave the ground." 

'' Upon one condition, that you 
promise to tell me why you cannot 
marry me within the next three days." 

"No, I cannot promise that, indeed 
I cannot." 

" Well, will you promise me this, 
not to give me my answer decidedly 
till the expiration of that time ? " 

Bessie hesitated for a minute or so, 
and then replied — 

" Yes, if you wish it ; but it is not 
fair to you. I feel I shall only have 
to repeat that I can never be your 
wife, Philip." 

She said the last words slowly and 
almost mournfully, and seemed to 
linger in almost caressing manner 
over the utterance of her lover's name. 

" Bessie, if you love me truly, I'll not 
believe that you will give me the same 
answer three days hence." 

She only shook her head sadly as 
they quickened their steps towards 
the now well-nigh deserted marquees. 

" Why, my dear Bessie, I thought 
you were lost," exclaimed Mrs. Foss- 



38 



AT FAULT 



dyke ; "I have sent messengers in all 
directions in search of you. We can 
take credit for one thing, Mr. Soames, 
we really are pretty well the last to 
withdraw from the field." 

" Very kind of you to come and so 
crown our hard-won victory, Mrs. 
Fossdyke," said Phil hastily, in order 
to cover his fair companion's confu- 
sion, but the young lady knew better 
than to compromise herself by making 
any excuses. 

" Now, what on earth could that 
young brewer have had to say to Miss 
Hyde all this time," muttered Mr. 
Totterdell. "I never found him talka- 
tive myself." 



CHAPTER VI 

MR. CUDEMORE AT HOME 

Mr. Cudemore occupied a small 
house in Spring Gardens, the ground 
floor of which he had turned into 
offices. On the first he had a dining- 
room, opening into a larger apart- 
ment, fitted up as half smoking-room, 
half library, while above he had his 
bedroom and dressing-room. He is 
lounging at the window of this non- 
descript apartment on the first floor 
this afternoon, engaged in earnest 
conversation with a slight, fashion- 
ably-dressed man, who seems more 
interested in the flower in his button- 
hole than Mr. Cudemore's discourse. 
Only he looked so indifferent he 
might have been deemed one of Mr. 
Cudemore's clients ; but people who 
are engaged in borrowing money seem 
usually more absorbed in the busines-s 
in hand. Mr. Sturton was the well- 
known Bond Street tailor, who had 
found it expedient to do no little busi- 
ness with Mr. Cudemore. Sometimes 
he wanted that gentleman's opinion 
about bills he had received in the 
course of legitimate business ; some- 
times he wanted to get some he con- 
sidered doubtful discounted, and Cude- 
more could very often get that done 
at a considerable sacrifice among his 
brethren, who will at times speculate 
in such commodities, if they can pick 
them up at low rate, on the chance of 
their coming in some day, when more 
legitimate traders decline to have any- 



thing to say to such paper. Further, 
Mr. Sturton at times advanced money 
to his customers through the medium 
of Cudemore. He never affected to 
do such a thing himself, but when he 
had every reason to believe they were 
men of substance, would say, if they 
confided their troubles to him, that he 
believed Mr. Cudemore, of Spring 
Gardens, was a liberal gentleman in 
that line. 

Professing amongst his friends the 
most democratic opinions, Mr. Sturton 
had a sneaking regard for his aristo- 
cratic patrons, and measured a mar- 
quis with an unctuous admiration most 
edifying to witness. He further 
affected a languid interest in the turf, 
about which he knew nothing, and 
cared less ; but he thought it the 
proper thing to do, and one of his as- 
pirations was to be as fashionable as 
his customers. It was of him that the 
following anecdote was narrated : — 

Lady R., well known over the 
Leicestershire grass country, once en- 
tered his shop, accompanied by her 
liege lord, to give an order. 

" I think I had the pleasure of see- 
ing your ladyship at the opera last 
night," remarked Mr. Sturton in his 
most dulcet tones. 

" Good gracious, Dick ! what does 
the man mean ? " exclaimed the sport- 
ing countess. " Please tell him I've 
come to order a habit." 

Poor Mr. Sturton, he perhaps never 
was more completely extinguished, 
and his talk waxed more fiercely Rad- 
ical than ever ; and though numbering 
many members of the House of Lords 
on his books, yet he vehemently 
demanded the extinction of the Here- 
ditary Chamber. 

" The security is excellent, I can 
vouch for. However, of course I'll 
make that all clear to you. I have 
got so much money out just now that 
I can't quite manage this business 
alone, and I am particularly anxious 
to help Foxborough." 

" Why ? " lisped Mr. Sturton. 

He might affect a languid, lisping 
manner, but he was quite as keen a 
man of business as the money-lender. 

" Well, it don't matter to you. I 
want you to find half this money, at 
ten per cent. — not quite such interest 
as we have had, but then the security's 



MR. CUDEMORE AT HOME 



39 



better, and I'll buy you out again at 
the end of six months." 

" I should rather like to know your 
object in being particularly anxious to 
help Foxborough. That he is a friend, 
and that you rather like him, ir;, you 
know, as well as I do, no argument in 
money-lending, which trade consists 
in obtaining the highest possible inter- 
est at the lowest possible risk." 

" You needn't teach me my busi- 
ness," returned Cudemore ; " I'm not 
quite a fool in it, as you must admit 
by this time. I have my reason for 
wishing to have some hold over James 
Foxborough. I could fancy your find- 
ing money for Lady Jane or Lord 
Augustus with a similar view. What 
would that be to me ? Nothing. 
What concerns me is, is it safe and 
good enough to risk coin in ? I tell 
you — nay, have shown you — this is ; 
what more do you want? If it isn't 
good enough for you, it will be, no 
doubt, for somebody else," and Mr. 
Cudemore threw himself back into 
his chair, as a man whose argument is 
spent. 

" Now it is no use going on like 
that," rejoined the other in his usual 
languid fashion. " Of course I am 
curious to know your special interest 
in making this loan ; but there is no 
necessity I should. Show me the 
security, is all I say, and I'll find my 
share of the money. I suppose that's 
sufficient," and Mr. Sturton looked 
with keen glance at his companion. 
He had no wish to quarrel with the 
money-lender, had many excellent 
reasons indeed for not doing so. 
" Now what about the bill of young 
Morant's — is that good ? I suppose 
you have made inquiries." 

" Yes, that's good enough. I fancy 
we might go a little further with him 
if he wants it. What is it for?" 

" Part payment of his account. 
He was hard up for ready money, a 
common complaint among my cus- 
tomers, as you know." 

" Men don't quite expect to pay your 
prices, Sturton, and not get credit. 
Like the betting-ring, if you've only 
capital your business is sure to be pro- 
fitable in the long run." 

" Yes ; onty, like the bookmakers, 
our bad debts beat us at times," re- 
torted Mr. Sturton a little sharply. 



" However, I suppose we have nothing 
more to talk about. You'll want this 
money pretty soon?" he observed, as 
he rose to depart. 

"At once. Jim Foxborough is com- 
ing here to see me almost immediately 
about it. I told them to show him into 
the office if you had not left." 

" Well, I am off now. You can de- 
pend on me for the coin in the course 
of two or three days. Adoo ! " and 
with this Mr. Sturton leisurely disap- 
peared from the apartment. 

" Now for Foxborough, I must im- 
pose terms upon him that won't be 
exactly in the bond ; but when a man 
wants money badly he's apt to assent 
to a good deal he wouldn't otherwise. 
Six thousand pounds, too, is not quite 
so easy to borrow, even when your 
security is pretty good. I wonder what 
he wants it for : he always has been a 
close man about his affairs, bar the 
Syringa, and that I was too much in 
to be kept in the dark about," solilo- 
quized the money-lender. "He may 
have hit upon something of the same 
sort down at Birmingham or Leeds, 
promising to turn out as good a spec, 
as the Syringa. Crafty beggar, don't 
mean to have me in it this time, ana 
perhaps he's about right," and Cude- 
more indulged in a dry chuckle, as he 
reflected over the money he had made 
out of the Syringa. What with ad- 
vancing a few hundreds on loan at 
usurious interest, and taking a share 
in the venture, which it afterwards 
cost Foxborough a pretty penny to get 
back into his own hands, Cudemore 
had done uncommonly well over that 
business. 

A tap at the door, and the money- 
lender's clerk announced that Mr. Fox- 
borough was in the office. 

" Show him up in five minutes, 
Cooper," rejoined Mr. Cudemore as 
usual. 

Mr. Cudemore's system was peculiar. 
His offices consisted of three rooms 
communicating. Theouter and smaller 
one was tenanted by the office boy, the 
second served for the two clerks, the 
younger of whom was, though, a boy 
of preternatural acuteness ; while the 
inner sanctuary was reserved for the 
money-lender himself. A second door 
enabled him, if he pleased, to leave 
the room, and gain the stairs lead- 



40 



At FAULT 



ing to the rooms overhead. If he 
was in the office the visitor was re- 
quested to wait in the clerks' room ; 
if not, he was ushered into Mr. Cude- 
more's sanctum, and left to wait there. 
All known clients were after a little 
delay shown up to the first floor, but 
the unknown were invariably inter- 
viewed to commence with in the office, 
the money-lender descending from 
above for that purpose, " like a hawk 
upon a wild duck," as an imaginative 
victim once described it, if he did not 
happen to be in his own private den. 
The five minutes' wait was often very 
much prolonged with a new or a shaky 
client, especially with a new one. " It 
don't do to have 'em thinking I sit 
here dying to lend money," argued 
that gentleman ; " the sooner they 
understand the difficulty of borrowing 
it, the sooner they get reconciled to 
forty per cent., and acquire a taste for 
rare wines, fancy pictures, and other 
things that accompany the last ago- 
nies." Except with very big fish be in 
no hurry to strike, was the money- 
lender's maxim, and he was doing a 
pretty thriving trade. 

" Mr. Foxborough, sir," said the 
clerk, once more opening the door ; 
and that gentleman entered the room, 
to which this was by no means his 
first visit. 

Mr. Cudemore shook hands cordi- 
ally with his visitor, and immediately 
proffered a cigar and a glass of amon- 
tillado. 

" Unless you prefer a brandy and 
seltzer," he added thoughtfully. " Your 
business looks like coming all right, 
but we must have a talk over it ; you 
see you want it so quickly." 

" Getting the money to go into a 
speculation a month after the chance 
has gone by is not of much use," re- 
joined Jim Foxborough sententiously. 

" Ah, it's so urgent as that, is it ? 
You must think it a very good thing to 
u so sweet upon it ? " 

" Perhaps I do. It looks like it, or 
I shouldn't be so anxious to borrow 
Dicney for it. It'll pay me pretty well, 
I fancy ; but remember what it may 
Dt is no business of yours, nor have I 
d-,y intention of telling you." 

"Well, as you say, it is no business 
f mine further than that natural curi- 
osity about our fellows' concerns that 



becomes a habit of my trade. You 
might want a few thousands more, you 
see, my dear friend," and Mr. Cude- 
more looked inquiringly at his visitor. 
" We might even find that, if one knew 
what it was for " 

" Never fear, I sha'n't come to you 
for them, even if I should. You might 
not think the security good enough, 
you know. When can I have this 
money ? " 

" Oh, in a few days, if we can ar- 
range one other trifling matter," re- 
joined Mr. Cudemore slowly. " The 
fact is," he continued, and assuming 
an air of bonhommie, which did not sit 
particularly well upon him, " I am get- 
ting on, Foxborough, although I can 
still claim to be a young man." 

The proprietor of the Syringa nod- 
ded. 

" It is getting time, in short, that I 
settled down ; in fact, married." 

" Well, fire away," rejoined Fox- 
borough. " I'm not your guardian. 
You don't want my consent, nor, d — n 
me, I should think, any one else's." 

" Excuse me, but you can't marry a 
girl in this country without her con- 
sent, at all events." 

" No, providing she's twenty-one ; 
except, I'm told, in fashionable circles, 
and the higher bred they are the less, I 
hear, they have to say to it. However, 
Cudemore, I don't suppose you have 
set your affections on — 

' A nobleman's daughter — a lady of rank.' " 

sang Mr. Foxborough, ribaldly chant- 
ing a well-known music-hall song of 
the day. 

" I'm talking to you in earnest," said 
the money-lender sternly ; " and the 
sooner you understand that the better 
it will be for both of us." 

Foxborough immediately assumed a 
more decorous manner. The idea of 
Cudemore's marriage had rather tickled 
him, but he now remembered men 
didn't like to be joked on the point, 
and that " ridiculing the noblest feel- 
ings of our nature" was always an ad- 
mittedly good text to go into a passion 
upon and use strong and fervid ora- 
tory. 

" I beg your pardon, Cudemore," he 
exclaimed, " but the old fox that has 
lost his tail must have his joke at the 
young one who persists in entering the 



MR. CUDEMORE AT HOME 



41 



trap. I sincerely trust you will be 
happy, and allow me to be one of the 
wedding party." 

He had utterly forgotten his wife's 
warning on this point, had, in fact, 
deemed it so ridiculous that he had no 
more idea of what Cudemore was driv- 
ing at than the veriest stranger could 
have had. 

" Your absence could be scarcely 
spared on the occasion," replied the 
money-lender a little huskily, for he 
recognised that his visitor had as yet 
no idea of what he meant. " I want 
your interest with Miss Foxborotigh 
in my behalf, and your permission to 
make her my wife." 

"You want to marry Nid ? Why, 
she's a child. Preposterous ! impos- 
sible ! absurd !" 

" I don't see anything absurd about 
it," replied Mr. Cudemore tartly ; for 
even money-lenders when smitten of 
the tender passion are as sensitive as 
other men. " Many girls marry young, 
and as for disparity of age, the fifteen 
years between us is no more than 
exists in hundreds of cases, and very 
often there is a great deal more ! " 

" Why, the child's only fifteen or 
so," exclaimed Jim Foxborough in all 
honesty, for that Nid was grown up 
nearly and turned of seventeen had 
escaped his notice, as it has that of 
many another father immersed in 
business which took him much from 
home. 

" She's in her eighteenth year, I 
have her mother's word for it, and I'm 
in my thirty-fourth," rejoined Mr. Cude- 
more. 

" Shouldn't have fancied you'd ever 
see thirty-eight again," retorted Mr. 
Foxborough with undue discretion, for 
the money-lender might have been 
anything between thirty and forty 
almost. 

" It is just possible I may find the 
arrangement of the loan not to be 
managed if we can't come to some 
terms on this matter," returned Cude- 
more grimly. 

" And by G — d, sir," exclaimed Fox- 
borough, " if you think Nid is to be 
thrown in as a bonus on the trans- 
action you very much mistake me. 
I'd sooner bust up and go to prison 
than consent to such an iniquitous 
agreement. I'll not pretend but that 



this money is of great moment to me," 
he continued, mastering his passion ; 
" that the speculation I want it for is — 
is a thing, in fact, it is of urgent neces- 
sity ; but it is possible, no doubt, to 
raise the funds elsewhere, and 1 tell 
you again, sooner than trade my daugh- 
ter away as if she was a slave-girl, I'll 
do without it altogether." 

Mr. Cudemore might be a little ruf- 
fled, but the training of his profession 
had demonstrated to him long ago the 
absurdity of losing his temper. He 
couid not, therefore, fail to mark the 
incoherence of Jim Foxborough's 
speech. To quarrel with him was 
the last thing he intended. He had 
set his heart, as men of his age do it 
times, on marrying a scarcely eman- 
cipated school-girl. A rupture with 
her father was not likely to assist his 
wishes, and, moreover, this proposed 
loan was a safe, comfortable ten per 
cent, investment, with sundry legal 
charges of which Mr. Cudemore might 
count upon appropriating the lion's 
share, for he had qualified as a solici- 
tor, though he never practised out of 
his own special business. 

" I don't see," he said at length, 
"that you have any call to get violent 
because I want to marry jour daughter. 
Miss Foxborough is a sweet, pretty 
girl, and good, I believe, as she's 
pretty. She's grown up, though you 
mayn't see it; will have plenty of sweet- 
hearts, before long, no doubt, and that 
I should want to be first in the field was 
mere common prudence on my part. 
I can give her a real good home. She 
may have her carriage, and need have 
no occasion to cut things fine in either 
her milliner's bills or her housekeep- 
ing. I don't know, as far as position 
goes, there's much to choose between 
you and me. I don't want to marry 
her against her inclination. I only 
want your good wishes for my success, 
that's all." 

Jim Foxborough knew very well that 
was not a bit what the money-lender 
had meant, but it sounded all very 
plausible put in this manner, and then 
again he was in somewhat urgent need 
of this money. 

" I cannot say I wish it," he replied 
after a few moments' consideration. 
"I don't think her mother wishes it, 
and I don't believe the child herself 



42 



AT FAULT 



has ever thought about it. I don't 
think you are a suitable husband for 
Nid. Hear me out," he continued, 
seeing the other was about to inter- 
rupt him. " I know you've got money, 
and can give her a good home and all 
that, but still I doubt her being happy 
with you. You've no tastes in com- 
mon." 

" Excuse me, Miss Foxborough's 
tastes are artistic, so are mine." 

The proprietor of the Syringa stared 
for a moment in sheer amazement at 
the audacious speaker. At last he re- 
joined drily : 

" Well, I should hardly have thought 
them so. I have no intention of inter- 
fering with Nid's choice when she is 
old enough to know her own mind. 
At present 1 undoubtedly don't con- 
sider her so. It will be time enough 
to talk about this a year or two hence, 
if you still wish it. Now, about the 
money?" and Foxborough threw him- 
self back, and strove to affect an in- 
difference to Cudemore's reply, which 
no man endeavouring to borrow money 
ever successfully achieved. 

The money-lender felt he had failed 
signally in his scheme so far, but he 
was much too shrewd not to see that 
to come to a rupture with Foxborough 
was certainly not the way to improve 
his chance of marrying Foxborough's 
daughter. It was his interest to find 
the money from every point of view, 
and the pursuit of his own interests 
Mr. Cudemore never neglected. Natur- 
ally he replied the money should be 
forthcoming. 



CHAPTER VII 

"nid's advice" 

Herbert Morant has suddenly 
awakened to the fact that he has 
made a confounded fool of himself. 
The fact dawned upon him as he lay 
in bed sipping his matutinal cup of tea 
one summer morning in Morpeth 
Terrace, and was brought home to his 
intelligence 'by the perusal of sundry 
blue-looking epistles that had just 
arrived, and which all contained more 
or less urgent appeals for money, the 
culminating shock being a polite inti- 
mation from Mr. Sturton that his bill 



at ninety days' sight for ^ioo would 
fall due on the following day, and he 
trusted would be duly met at the ex- 
piration of the ordinary three days' 
grace. 

Mr. Morant had been cursed, as he 
himself said, " with a small independ- 
ence, just enough to induce a man to 
do nothing, and not quite enough to 
live upon." He was not particularly 
extravagant, but he did what his asso- 
ciates did, and that among young 
men, in the heyday of youth, with 
excellent spirits and unimpaired diges- 
tion, meant a good deal. He assisted 
at most that was going on in town, 
and, do it as you will, that runs into 
money. The consequence was, he 
was always spending more than he 
had. This had already twice necessi- 
tated dips into his limited capital, 
followed, of course, by a corresponding 
reduction of income, and it was now 
becoming clear to him that a third 
call upon his principal was imminent. 
It was disgusting very, just too as he 
had begun to think how nice it would 
be to settle down and marry Nid 
Foxborough. 

" This must be looked into and put 
a stop to at once," he exclaimed, as he 
sprang out of bed and into his bath, 
and for the next few minutes there 
might have been heard a wondrous 
splashing and sluicing, mixed with 
muttered objurgations and sublime 
resolutions. 

" Cursed fool, life chucked away, 
give it up, make a clean slate of it, 
suppose there'll be enough left to buy- 
bread and cheese ; I'll take up a trade, 
by the Lord, and stick to it ; must 
have the pull any way, you can't spend 
money while you are trying to make 
it." 

It has been before pointed out that 
Mr. Herbert Morant was somewhat 
eccentric, and that, moreover, his 
slight eccentricities were not only 
tolerated, but contributed no little to 
his popularity. If there was one per- 
son with whom Herbert Morant was 
a special favourite, it was Mrs. 
Marriott, the housekeeper of the cham- 
bers in Morpeth Terrace, in a set of 
which Morant had resided ever since 
he left the university some five or six 
years ago. She regarded him as quite 
the pick of all her gentlemen, chiefly 



" MD'S ADVICE' 



43 



perhaps because out of the half-dozen 
or so tenants none ever bantered her 
as Herbert Morant did. 

His. toilet completed, he rang the 
bell for breakfast, and told the servant 
who brought it he wished to speak to 
Mrs. Marriott at her earliest conveni- 
ence, and that lady's advent speedily 
followed. 

" Ah ! good morning, Mrs. Mar- 
riott," he exclaimed, " 1 have sent for 
you to say that ue are once more on 
the verye of a crisis — financial crisis, 
of course. I have experienced more 
than one since I have enjoyed the 
comfort of being under your charge." 

" Lor', sir, I'm sure 1 hope it isn't 
very bad," rejoined the housekeeper, 
who had rather vague notions of what 
Mr. Morant called his crises. 

"Mrs. Marriott, I must request no 
feminine frivolity," said Herbert im- 
pressively. " I have instructed you in 
your duties during crises ; I presume 
you haven't forgotten them — the strict- 
est economy, mind. I can afford 
nothing that costs ready money, ex- 
cept washing and candles. It's a 
mercy I can do without coals this 
warm weather. Your book, mind, 
must be absolutely an affair to be 
settled in Queen's heads " 

" And with regard to other things, 
sir, I suppose they're to go on as 
usual?" 

" Quite so, Mrs. Marriott. Any- 
thing that goes down in a book you 
will obtain as usual. We must not 
disturb the mysterious currents of 
trade, nor derange any fellow -crea- 
ture's system of double entry. You 
understand, Mrs. Marriott?" 

"Yes," replied the housekeeper, 
laughing ; " but you know, sir, it 
makes no real difference. You said 
yourself last time it all came to the 
same thing at the end of the quarter." 

"You don't understand these things, 
Marriott. I am acting on the sound- 
est financial principles. When there 
is a run upon bullion the Bank of 
England always raises the rate of dis- 
count, which is tantamount to declining 
to part with ready money except under 
severe pressure. That's the principle ; 
we must exist like the snipes this 
quarter, on lengthy bills. Also re- 
member I am never at home, or laid 
up with confluent smallpox. Great 



men like editors, and gentlemen in 
difficulties, are always hard to inter- 
view. Were you ever in gaol, Mrs. 
Marriott ?" 

" Lord, sir, what a question ! " said 
the housekeeper rather indignantly. 

" Pooh ! I don't mean as a victim ; 
I mean as a consoler." 

" Well, sir, I don't know whoever 
could have told you, but when Marriott 
got into difficulties and was ' took,' I 
used sometimes to go and see him," 
whispered the widow. " I sometimes 
think that it was his anxieties that 
killed him." 

Perhaps they had, for the deceased 
Marriott's, a retired butler who had 
gravitated into the public line, chief 
anxiety latterly had been the attain- 
ment of as much brandy and water as 
possible. 

" Mrs. Marriott, when they have 
cast me into a dungeon with gyves 
upon my wrists, I shall expect you to 
visit me as somebody in history, whose 
name I don't precisely recollect, used 
to visit somebody else whose patrony- 
mic at this minute I can't exactly 
remember." 

With which Christy Minstrel jest 
Mr- Morant dismissed his house- 
keeper, and, lighting a cigar, sat down 
to reflect upon his position. He had 
had his joke with Mrs. Marriott, but 
there was some method in his mad- 
ness. The housekeeper did not 
understand a good deal of his chaff, 
but she thoroughly comprehended the 
main drift of it, to wit, that money 
was scarce, and that lunches and 
dinners in chambers, when ordered, 
were to be based on economical prin- 
ciples. Still, this sort of saving is not 
much use to a man in a big money 
scrape, and as a rule men never live 
so well as just before bankruptcy. I 
think it is in Disraeli's Young Duke 
that the Marquis and his wife, having 
tried economy for a year and found it 
a failure, once more announce expense 
as no object. The saving seemed so 
utterly inadequate to the effacement 
of (he difficulties as not to be worth 
going on with. Herbert Morant was 
no fool, and was quite as well aware 
of this as that continued reckless 
living only increased them. What 
was he to do ? — as for paying his 
debts there would he little difficulty 



44 



AT FAULT 



about that, but it involved further 
sacrifice of capital, and this would be 
to leave him with a very shrunken 
income. A man who had failed to 
make both ends meet on five hundred 
a year was hardly likely to get along 
on little more than half that sum. 

There could be no doubt about it, 
he must do something. If it had not 
been for Nid it is odds he would have 
decided on emigration — realizing his 
capital, and trying his luck in Australia 
or New Zealand ; but he could not 
make up his mind to lose all hope of 
winning Nid for his wife. His visits 
had been frequent to the cottage by 
the Regent's Park of late, and though 
he saw but little of the master of the 
house, Mrs. Foxborough always re- 
ceived him quite graciously, and Nid 
with the sunniest of smiles. She 
tyrannized over him in the prettiest 
way, was always giving him petty 
commissions, such as procuring her a 
song, some flowers, a new book, or 
else " the correct version of a little bit 
of theatrical gossip," and Herbert 
Morant kissed his silken chain of 
servitude metaphorically, and exulted 
that he was bound to the wheels of 
the child enchantress's chariot. He 
wished to marry this girl, and had fair 
reason to suppose that neither she 
herself nor her mother would be 
averse to such a proposal on his part 
— true, she was very young, only sweet 
seventeen, but girls have been "wooed 
and married and a' " at that age many 
times. Now, what was he to do ? If 
he had embarked in any profession 
when he first came to London, and 
stuck to it, he would have now been 
probably making an income that, 
joined to what he had of his own, 
would have enabled him to offer any 
girl a modest home. He had made a 
fool of himself, but it was no use 
tearing his hair over that ; the ques- 
tion was, what was he to set his hand 
to? At twenty-eight a man can hardly 
be said not to have a career still before 
him. 

He smoked on, and still the problem 
seemed no nearer of solution. 

" Confound it ! " he exclaimed, 
" dear old Phil Soames used to say at 
Cambridge — ' A man with average 
ability and education, if he has only 
energy, can always get his living. 



Don't you believe he can't— it's only 
want of determination that prevents 
him. He goes about asking for some- 
thing to do, instead of telling people 
what he wants to do, and asking them 
to give him a start.' Hang it— what 
is it I want to do? and I can only 
answer vaguely something to get a 
living out of. Dear old Phil, I wonder 
where he is now. He used to talk so 
plucky about getting his living, but I 
fancy his bread was pretty well 
buttered all the same, and he has not 
had much occasion to trouble himself 
on that score. Heigho, I don't get on 
with this cursed conundrum — How 
I'm to make a respectable living — it's 
the toughest double acrostic ever was 
tackled. I think I'll go up to the 
cottage and talk it over with Mrs. 
Foxborough. She's a shrewd, practi- 
cal woman." 

Arrived at the cottage, he was shown 
into the pretty drawing-room, which 
he found tenanted by Nid only. 

" Mamma's out," she said, as she 
greeted him with a smile, " so you 
will have to put up with me for the 
present." 

" That is a fate most men would 
resign themselves to with much satis- 
faction ; but I do want to see your 
mother all the same." 

" Nothing easier ; you will only 
have to wait a little. I don't suppose 
it will be very long before she is in. 
It has one drawback, for you will be 
expected to entertain me." 

" I can't say I feel much like enter- 
taining anybody ; the fact is, I have 
got into a scrape, Nid." 

" I am awfully sorry ; but do — do 
you think you ought to call me Nid ?" 
asked the girl, with a demure hesitation 
irresistibly coquettish. 

" Certainly ; doesn't everybody who 
knows you really well call you Nid ? 
Didn't your godfathers and godmothers 
on your baptism give you this name?" 
replied Morant. 

" No, sir ; they did not. I was 
christened Nydia Foxborough ; but 
what are these?" she continued, as 
Herbert extracted from his pockets a 
small parcel and an envelope. 

" That is the broken fan you gave 
me, I hope now duly repaired ; and 
that is the box for Covent Garden 
next Friday. Your mother promised 



DISCORD AT DYKE 



45 



to take you if I succeeded in getting a 
box, and I triumphed." 

" Oh, how good of you ! Ah, yes, 
Mr. Morant, 1 think I must be Nid to 
you." 

" You mercenary little lady ! was 
there ever such a case of bribery seen, 
I wonder ? " 

" Don't laugh at me — how dare you ? 
What girl in her teens wouldn't over- 
look being called by her Christian 
name in a man who brought her an 
opera box ? But what is the scrape 
you have got into ? — nothing very bad, 
is it?" 

" No, I have only been spending 
more money than I ought." 

" Why get this opera box, then? It 
is very kind of you, but surely it is 
only spending more money again." 

If Nid had never known what it was 
to want money, she was not used to 
lavish expenditure either. Her mother 
was an excellent manager, and made 
their income go a long way while 
living comfortably, but Nid was not 
unaccustomed to hear the expression, 
" they couldn't afford it." 

" Oh, that makes no difference, and 
it will give you a pleasure, and I 
should never count loss much in that 
case. It isn't the money part of the 
scrape. I can pay my way out of 
that : but the thing is, I must really 
get to work and do something for my 
living." 

" Surely there's no great hardship 
in that," rejoined the girl, who was 
wont to see most, both of the women and 
men, with whom she came in contact 
earn their bread, and who looked for- 
ward to doing it herself in another 
year or two. 

" No, certainly not ; but you will 
hardly believe it, Nid, that, great 
hulking fellow as I am, upon my word 
I don't know how to set about it. 
There was a dear old friend of mine 
who used always to say that any man 
with tolerable brains, a fair education, 
and energy, could earn a decent 
living." 

" Would you think it very pre- 
sumptuous in me if I offered you 
advice?" said Nid timidly. 

"No. What is it?" 

" I think if I were you I would con- 
sult that friend." 

" Eureka I You don't know what 



that is, but it's equivalent to the very 
thing in this case. What a clever 
little girl it is 1 Look here, Nid, I'll 
follow.your advice, and you shall keep 
my secret. It would be very sweet to 
think that I owed my start in life to 
you, darling." 

" Mr. Morant 1 " 

" Well, I allow I hadn't the right to 
call you that yet ; but I hope to have 
some of these days. Ask your mother 
if I may come to your box at Covent 
Garden on Friday. I shall not wait 
to see her now — I found such a shrewd 
adviser in her place." 

"Come and dine with us, and escort 
us properly. The brougham has a 
back seat, and I'll see mamma sends 
you an invitation." 

" Thanks ; that will be delightful. 
Good-bye, and God bless you, 
darling," added Herbert as he shook 
hands, and this time Nid only laughed 
as she held up a chiding forefinger. 

If there was not an engagement be- 
tween these young people, they had, 
at all events, arrived at a tacit under- 
standing. 



CHAPTER VIII 

"DISCORD at dyke" 

" It is all very well, John, but it is not 
fair to keep your wife in total ignor- 
ance of everything," exclaimed Mrs. 
Fossdyke upon the evening of her hus- 
band's return, as they sat in the draw- 
ing-room at Dyke, indulging in a tete- 
d-iele after Miss Hyde, pleading a bad 
headache, had retired to bed. "You 
go away, I don't know where, and 
refuse to tell me anything about your 
proceedings when you return." 

" You know very well, Mary, I 
never discuss business subjects with 
you, nor very much with any one else. 
I have played my hand alone all my 
life." 

" But remember it was my money 
gave you your first real start in life, 
and I do trust " 

" You're entitled to remind me of it 
for the remainder of my existence. 
Listen to what I say. 1 never did, 
and never mean to, talk over my 
affairs with you. I got you to under- 
stand that once, and you were quite 
content, and never troubled your head. 



4 6 



AT FAULT 



We were excellent friends in those 
days. Now that meddling mischief- 
monger, old Totterdell, has poisoned 
your understanding, and you're simply 
an incarnation of suspicion. The 
doddering old idiot has been to my 
office while I was away, questioning 
my clerks about some of my business. 
You don't suppose I mean to stand 
that. Of course my people were much 
too well trained to tell him anything ; 
but the next time he comes here I 
shall tell him to go, and if he can't 
take that as a hint — and he is not 
good at taking hints — I shall kick him 
down the front doorsteps and see if he 
comprehends that." 

" John, you couldn't ! My god- 
father ! How dare you talk so ! He 
is an old man, too, recollect. All 
Baumborough would cry shame on 
you." 

" Don't you believe it ! Totterdell 
has made himself so obnoxious of late 
from his perpetual inquisitiveness and 
gossiping that I think Baumborough 
is more likely to express astonishment 
I hadn't done it long before ; but he 
is, as you say, an old man, and there- 
fore safe from anything of that sort. 
Still, mark me, I'll have him about 
Dyke no more, and the sooner you 
make that clear to his understanding 
the better. If you don't, I shall, and 
it will be probably a little more 
coarsely conveyed to him." 

" I'll not have my relatives debarred 
my house," retorted Mrs. Fossdyke 
with a stamp of her foot and ah angry 
toss of her head ; "more mine than 
yours, I've little doubt, if we could 
only look into how it was paid for." 

" I'm not going to argue with an 
angry woman." 

" I never was calmer in my life," 
screamed Mrs. Fossdyke. " If there 
is any loss of temper it is on your side, 
I'm sorry to say, John. Talk about 
kicking relatives down the front door- 
steps, indeed ! " 

" He is not a relative, and I've told 
you I'm not going to kick him." 

" I detest nagging, it's unmanly. 
Now perhaps, Mr. Fossdyke, you 
will explain to me all about Miss 
Hyde." 

" I've told you already that there is 
nothing to explain further than has 
been explained. Bessie can go 



whence she came if it is your wish, in 
fact, no doubt will if, prompted by 
your imbecile godfather, you make 
things unpleasant to her." 

" I don't ; it is you who make things 
unpleasant by half-confidences and 
abuse of my relations." And Mrs. 
Fossdyke sniffed defiantly. 

" As I told you before, he is not a 
relation." 

" Oh, no, perhaps not in the eye of 
the law ; but I should hope there are 
moral principles which guide us in 
reference to the ties of kinship." 

" If you'd some moral principles 
that guided you in the paths of com- 
mon sense, Mary, it would be a com- 
fort," retorted John Fossdyke angrily. 

" I may be a fool — quite as big a 
fool as my unfortunate godfather ; but 
I'm not an idiot either, John," retorted 
Mrs. Fossdyke, now perfectly white 
with anger. " Again I ask you, Who 
is Miss Hyde?" 

And now it began to dawn upon 
John Fossdyke that he was likely to 
get the worst of this quarrel, for he 
was very fond indeed of Bessie, loving 
her as his own daughter, which she 
was not, whatever suspicions might 
have arisen in the brain of Town 
Councillor Totterdell or the wife of his 
bosom ; but he foresaw that Mrs. 
Fossdyke's jealousy was aroused con- 
cerning the girl, and that it would 
probably overwhelm the regard in 
which he had held her. The calling 
her ostentatiously Miss Hyde, instead 
of the more endearing Bessie, was 
significant of the brewing of the 
tempest, and in his heart the Town 
Clerk muttered maledictions against 
Totterdell the inquisitive, heavy, if 
low. 

" Well, Mr. Fossdyke," resumed 
the lady, lighting her bedroom candle, 
with no little parade, " I ask you once 
more, Who is Miss Hyde?" 

" You had better ask her, Mary ? " 

" Oh, you needn't think I haven't 
done that, but she declines to tell me 
anything about herself ; says her 
father is dead, that her mother is still 
alive, but she refused to say anything 
further. You can tell me something 
about her mother, I make very little 
doubt." 

" Go to bed, woman," rejoined her 
husband sternly. "You little know 



DISCORD AT DYKE' 



47 



what you are talking about. If ever 
you gain the knowledge you crave, it 
may be the worse for you. Go to bed, 
I say, and check the scurrilous tongue 
of you." 

For a few moments Mrs. Fossdyke 
was awed by her husband's manner, 
then recovering herself she exclaimed, 
" It is quite evident you do know 
all about her. I have only to say I 
must refuse to tolerate a young person 
whose antecedents are involved in 
such questionable mystery any longer 
under my roof." 

" It isn't your roof," thundered John 
Fossdyke, now thoroughly aroused, 
" and it is for me to say who shall 
shelter beneath it. I begin to com- 
prehend how men are incensed to 
raise their hand against a woman, and 
how a century ago a country squire 
might have recourse to the stirrup- 
leather." 

The lady became aware of a look 
in the face of her lord she had never 
seen before, and though a high-spirited 
woman, she shrank before it, and re- 
tired without even hurling that Par- 
thian gibe so loved of her sex. 

John Fossdyke knew that this was 
but a barren victory. He might de- 
cree what he pleased, yet if his wife 
chose she could easily make Bessie's 
further residence at Dyke impossible. 
Not only as mistress of the house 
could she make Bessie's position in- 
tolerable, but if she suddenly dis- 
countenanced her, and said markedly 
that Miss Hyde was ■a.protdgee of her 
husband's, and lived with them not 
because she (Mrs. Fossdyke) wished 
it, but because Mr. Fossdyke ordered 
it, there would be a pretty wagging of 
tongues in Baumborough, and Bessie 
was like to have little character left, 
poor girl, before many weeks were 
over. He could picture it all — Bes- 
sie's astonishment at the first rebuff, 
her agony at finding herself shunned 
by those who once made so much of 
her, while Mrs. Fossdyke posed as a 
cross between an outraged woman and 
a Christian martyr, and finally the 
Town Clerk cursed the wife of his 
bosom as he thought of what she 
might be capable in her wrath. 

And yet she was by no means a 
bad-hearted woman, nor yet a bad- 
tempered one ; a little wearying it may 



be at times on the subject of her family 
and the dower she had brought her 
husband ; her present unhealthy state 
of mind had been brought about 
slowly but entirely by Mr. Totterdell. 
His inquisitiveness and conjectures 
had first sown suspicion in her mind. 
She had gradually brooded over 
things, stimulated all the time by her 
godfather's perpetual questions and 
speculations, till she had constructed 
a very pretty little romance for herself, 
to wit, that Bessie Hyde was John 
Fossdyke's illegitimate child, and thac 
her mother was still living somewhere 
under his protection. No wonder the 
good lady's temper grew a little crisp 
at her assumed discovery. That Miss 
Hyde seemed dull and out of spirits 
John Fossdyke thought only natural. 
She had welcomed him warmly, but 
somewhat sadly, on his arrival, and 
had, as before said, pleaded headache 
and retired early. That Mrs. Foss- 
dyke had commenced making Dyke 
impossible to her was evident to the 
Town Clerk, but in this he did his 
wife injustice ; further than severe 
cross-examination as to her birth and 
parents Bessie had no cause to com- 
plain. The mistress of Dyke kept all 
her wrath for her husband. 

But Bessie had her troubles. She 
had promised to give Philip Soames 
an answer to that question he had 
asked in the cricket-field in three days. 
The three days had elapsed and the 
answer had been given, and Bessie 
was sore at heart she had given it. 
She had told him that she could not 
be his wife without telling him her 
secret, and she had told him she 
could not make up her mind to do 
that. Philip had pleaded his best, 
and the girl loved him very dearly. 

" Listen, my darling," he had said, 
" Pll not believe that you ever com- 
mitted any ill ; only tell me that you 
come to me with no stain upon your 
name, and that no one can point the 
finger of scorn at you, and I'll ask for 
no more. Keep this terrible bugbear 
to yourself as long as you list, and one 
day we shall laugh at it together, be- 
lieve me." 

But Bessie had hung her head and 
declined to give the desired assurance, 
and Philip Soames had taken her in 
his arms, pressed his lips solemnly on 



4 8 



AT FAULT 



her brow, and walked sadly away into 
the night ; and Bessie had gone up 
to her room, had a great cry, and 
wondered if she could have felt more 
miserable if she had confided that 
woeful secret to her lover. He might 
have declined to take her, as, indeed, 
she had compelled him to do now ; 
but he would have pitied her, and 
Bessie felt proudly that, think what 
he might, her story would never have 
passed Philip Soames's lips. Then 
she thought she would consult Mr. 
Fossdyke when he came back. Why 
had he not been at home, that she 
might have consulted him during 
those three days? It was too late 
now. Like the sped arrow, the word 
spoken never comes back, and she had 
said Philip Soames nay, and received 
his farewell kiss. She must leave 
Dyke, she thought. She could not 
endure to meet her lover constantly, 
and he knowing there was a story of 
shame connected with her. She would 
feel now as if all Baumborough knew 
it. While the altercation was going 
on in the drawing-room between John 
Fossdyke and his wife, Bessie had in 
the quiet of her chamber made 
up her mind as to what she would 
do. She would confide to Mr. Foss- 
dyke all that had passed between 
her and Philip Soames, and then 
she would quit Dyke and look out 
for another situation. That she 
should ever be as happy as she had 
been at Dyke was not likely, but she 
would prefer anything to going back 
to live with her aunt. Thanks to 
John Fossdyke's liberality, she had 
money in hand to maintain herself 
easily for the next few months, and 
surely before that time expired she 
would have found something to 
do. 

Now the Town Clerk was just as 
desirous of a private conference with 
Bessie as she was with him, and after 
breakfast the next morning he, per- 
fectly regardless of his wife's snort of 
indignation at the proposal, said 
quietly,— 

" Come into the garden for ten 
minutes, Bessie ; I have something to 
say to you." 

"And I to you, Mr. Fossdyke," 
replied the girl, as she stepped out of 
the window on to the pleasaunce. 



"Which of us shall commence?" 
asked the Town Clerk, as, having 
gained the rosary, they seated them- 
selves on a bench. 

" I think I had better listen to you 
first," replied Miss Hyde. 

" Very good. What I have got to 
say is soon said. You will believe me 
when 1 tell you how sincerely sorry 1 
am to have to say it, but I see no 
alternative. I think, Bessie, you must 
leave Dyke. Mrs. Fossdyke has been 
so worked upon by that miserable old 
fool Totterdell, that she has con- 
structed a mystery in her mind about 
you which makes your further stay 
here impossible for me. What the 
exact maggot she has in her brain may 
be 1 don't really know, but from her 
present temper 1 fancy you also would 
find remaining with her equally im- 
practicable. Has she been making 
things unpleasant to you as yet ?" 

" No, indeed ; further than that she 
has manifested great curiosity about 
my antecedents," replied Bessie, 
hanging her head, " she has been kind 
as ever." 

"And now what is it that you have 
got to say to me ? " asked John Foss- 
dyke. 

"That for a reason of my own I 
also think it is best I should leave 
Dyke. Mr. Fossdyke," continued the 
girl earnestly, while the blood surged 
to her temples, " you know all about 
me, and I only know how good you 
have been to me. Since you have 
been away Mr. Soames has asked me 
to marry him." 

" My dear child, I am delighted to 
hear it. He's not only a good match 
from a worldly point of view, but 
there's not a finer, more straightfor- 
ward young fellow anywhere within 
hail of Baumborough ; any girl might 
be proud to have won his love." 

" But— but," replied Bessie, as the 
tears gathered in her eyes, " you know 
I could not say yes." 

" Good heaven ! girl, you don't 
mean to say you have said no to the 
best parti in the neighbourhood ? " 

" How could I do otherwise, unless 
I had the courage to tell him my luck- 
less history? You know, Mr. Foss- 
dyke, I could not do that." 

" I am not at all clear about that. 
You have been twitted with your 



WHAT A TEASE YOU ARE, HERBERT" 



49 



birth by an acidulated puritanical 
aunt, from the moment you grew old 
tnough to understand it. I also have 
recommended you to keep silence on 
the subject, and pointed out that it 
would be always against your getting 
any such situation ; not, I trust, as 
you hold here, but as you meant seek- 
ing when I suggested your coming to 
us, and then your sweet cousins, no 
doubt, were always casting it in your 
teeth. Now, answer me these two 
questions, How much did you tell 
Philip Soames? — for of course you 
told him something — and do you think 
he loves you in genuine earnest ? " 

" I told him," replied Bessie, " my 
real position here ; that I was neither 
relation nor adopted daughter of 
yours, whatever Baumborough might 
think, but simply Mrs. Fossdyke's 
paid companion." 

" Ha ! and what did he say to 
that ? " 

" That it made no difference ; that 
he was ready to take me for myself ; 
but I told him that it could never 
be." 

"There, Bessie, my dear, I don't 
quite agree with you. If you like 
Philip Soames well enough, I think it 
will be. I don't imagine your ante- 
cedents will, from my knowledge of 
his character, have much weight with 
him. You are quite right, he must 
know your whole story first ; and if — 
as I believe he will — he again asks 
you to marry him, your fate will be in 
your own hands. It will be my busi- 
ness to let Soames know your secret." 

" I really am tired of all this mys- 
tery," exclaimed the voice of Mrs. 
Fossdyke, who, attended by Mr. Tot- 
terdell, had advanced noiselessly over 
the soft turf, and caught her husband's 
concluding words. " If there is a 
secret connected with Miss Hyde, 
then I claim to be informed of it at 
once. I should fancy I am a much 
more proper person to be intrusted 
with it than Mr. Soames." 

As for Mr. Totterdell, his face d :- 
picted the most lively curiosity, while 
his ears were evidently literally agape 
for intelligence. 

" Who did he say she was, Mary ? " 
he asked breathlessly, glancing at 
Bessie. 

But John Fossdyke rose iu his 



wrath, with that look on his face that 
his wife had never witnessed till the 
previous night. 

" Who Miss Hyde is matters little 
to you, as from this time I trust you 
will abstain from ever darkening my 
doorstep again ; your mischievous 
tongue and insatiable curiosity have 
already caused plenty of unpleasant- 
ness in Baumborough. You occupy 
yourself prying into my private affairs, 
and I tolerate that from no man. Go, 
and let me see no more of you at 
Dyke." 

"Yes, sir, I shall go," retorted Mr. 
Totterdell, " and I shall not return ; 
but if you think, John Fossdyke, your 
losing your temper is going to stop 
people talking, you are very much 
mistaken. I assure you all Baum- 
borough are wanting to know who 
Miss Hyde is," and with this parting 
salvo the old gentleman took his de- 
parture. 

" As for you, Mary," continued John 
Fossdyke sternly, "you need trouble 
yourself no more about secrets or 
mysteries. Bessie will leave us in 
about a week. I have just arranged 
it with her," and so saying, he turned 
abruptly and walked back to the 
house. 

As for Mrs. Fossdyke, instead of, 
as might have been expected, pouring 
forth the vials of her wrath upon Miss 
Hyde's head, she sat down upon the 
bench and indulged in a good cry at 
the idea of her departure ; even going 
so far in her penitence as to admit 
that had it not been for her god- 
father, she would never even have 
dreamt of there being any mystery 
about Bessie. 



CHAPTER IX 

"WHAT A TEASE YOU ARE, HER- 
BERT " 

When Mrs. Foxborough heard her 
daughter's account of Herbert Mor- 
ant's visit, she looked somewhat 
serious. Nid had not told all the 
particulars of that visit, and her 
mother knew very well that she had 
not. Mrs. Foxborough quite under- 
stood, from the way the girl told her 
story, that there had been definite 
love-passages between her and Her- 
bert Morant ; and Mrs. Foxborough 



50 



AT FAULT 



now asked herself whether it had been 
wise on her part, not merely to allow, 
but to encourage the intimacy between 
them. She in her own heart was 
decidedly averse to Nid's appearing 
on the stage. What she desired for 
her daughter was that she should 
marry a gentleman in easy circum- 
stances, and never have anything to 
do with the profession. She would 
have scorned the idea of endeavour- 
ing to entrap Herbert Morant ; in her 
eyes Nid was good enough for any 
scion of the peerage, but she liked the 
young fellow, she thought Nid also 
had a penchant that way. And, well, 
if they should happen to fancy one 
another, Morant was just the son-in- 
law she should welcome with much 
satisfaction. But this account of his 
impecuniosity was a startling surprise 
for Mrs. Foxborough. She had no 
idea but what Morant was a man in 
easy circumstances. A rich man, no ; 
but a man who could take very good 
care of her child if she gave her into 
his hands. Mrs. Foxborough thought 
now, if Nid married him, the girl 
would have to begin at once to take 
her share of bringing grist to the mill ; 
and then Mrs. Foxborough had grim 
reminiscences of many a case in her 
own experience in which the wife had 
made the income, while the husband 
contented himself with spending three- 
fourths of it. She was much too 
clever a woman to say anything to 
Nid, but she bitterly regretted that 
she had allowed Morant to attain so 
intimate a footing in the house. As 
for her erratic lord and master, he was 
once more off on one of his country 
tours ; but even had he not been, it 
is doubtful whether Mrs. Foxborough 
would have deemed this quite a case 
for consulting him about. 

She yielded, of course, to Nid's 
petition, and allowed that young lady 
to send off a note of invitation to 
dinner for Friday night, but she puz- 
zled her brain meanwhile no little as 
to how she should manage to place 
Herbert Morant on that distant foot- 
ing that she was now extremely 
desirous to see him upon. She was 
worldly and vigilant, as keenly alive 
to a detrimental match as any Bel- 
gravian mother, when it came to the 
disposal of her treasure. Of no gentle 



birth herself, she had mixed enough in 
fair society to attain refined manners 
and to appreciate them. That Nid 
should marry a bond fide gentleman 
was an article of faith with her ? but 
then he mast undoubtedly have 
enough money to support a wife. 
Morant had answered all these quali- 
fications, she thought, and now he 
had unexpectedly broken down in a 
very essential one. And while we 
scheme and plot in our little way, the 
gods give another shake to the 
kaleidoscope we call life, which pro- 
duces quite a fresh arrangement of the 
pieces, and produces corresponding 
perplexity in our minds as to what is 
the goal we are desirous of arriving 
at. 

Herbert Morant, meanwhile, was 
simply delighted with the so far suc- 
cess of Nid's idea, and sanguine after 
his manner as to the result. Philip 
Soames had not only answered his 
letter, but answered it in the most 
satisfactory way. 

"Not only," he said, "do I still 
stick to my old theory that there's 
work to be had by any man with 
average brains and energy, but I can 
find it for you. Come down and stay 
with me for a fortnight, and talk it 
over. I shall be delighted to see you, 
old man, if nothing else comes of it ; 
but if you are really in earnest some- 
thing else will. Given you're good to 
put your neck into the collar, I'll 
guarantee you're earning your corn. 
Anyway, come and hear what I have 
to say. It's a dullish place, no doubt, 
but it's all new to you. I'll do you 
decently, and, bar finding fault with 
the malt, you can please yourself on 
all points. Sneering at our brose is 
insulting the family scutcheon, and 
you'll run the risk of being mashed in 
one of our own tubs. We bear with 
no deriding of beer in our stronghold. 
Once more, my dear Herbert, I say 
come ; if you're half the man you were 
at Cambridge, I'll show you an open- 
ing which may be a good deal what 
you choose to make it. 

" Ever yours, 

"Phil Soames. 
" Mallington House, Baumborough." 

Mr. Morant was jubiliant over this 
letter. He was not only bored with 



WHAT A TEASE YOU ARE, HERBERT" 



51 



the treadmill of fashion, up which his 
feet incessantly trod, but in his love 
for Nid he had an incentive for work 
such as he had long required. Hefelt 
too that he had it in him. He had 
worked hard enough at times in the 
getting up of all sorts of amusements, 
such as balls, private theatricals, 
cricket-matches, picnics, etc. — why 
should he not expend all this energy 
in something remunerative ? Yes, 
office hours would, of course, at first 
come irksome. It would be a deuce 
of a bore getting up at half-past eight, 
or thereabouts, and going to bed at 
midnight would no doubt have a 
humdrum flavour about it to start with. 
But there were some of his acquain- 
tances in the Guards who he knew 
had often to meet terribly early en- 
gagements, and yet these things never 
seemed to disturb the equanimity of 
those light-hearted warriors amid the 
small hours. He supposed it was 
easy to educate yourself, and to get 
along upon about four hours' sleep. We 
are all creatures of habit, and lying in 
bed till twelve is simply chronic indo- 
lence. No, in the future, like " Young 
Phillip, the falconer," of the old ballad, 
he meant to be " up with the dawn," 
and then he burst out laughing as he 
thought of young Dimsdale's rendering 
of the old saw the night before last at 
a late supper party — 

" Early to bed and early to rise 
Shows a man can be a fool if he tries." 

Mr. Morant arrived in excellent 
time at Tapton Cottage ; but if he had 
counted upon the chance of a tete-d- 
tete with Nid he was mistaken, for he 
found Mrs. Foxborough alone in the 
drawing-room when he entered. That 
lady welcomed him warmly, thanked 
him for sending the box, and murmur- 
ing something about dinner being 
ready directly, motioned him to a 
seat. 

" I am going to bid you good-bye 
for a bit after to-night, Mrs. Fox- 
borough," said Herbert. " I am going 
into the country." 

"Ah, for some shooting," rejoined 
his hostess. " I don't know much 
about such things, but is not this the 
month sou commence to kill part- 
ridges ?'" 

'"No, I am going away with far 
higher views than mere amusement," 



rejoined Morant, in somewhat grandi- 
loquent fashion. He had a misty idea 
that there was something heroic in 
earning his own living. " I am going 
into the country to discuss my future 
career with an old friend." 

" I am sure I wish you every suc- 
cess most heartily, Mr. Morant. I 
fancy you will do well in whatever 
you set your hand to. I was sorry to 
hear from Nid that it had become 
necessary, not but that I think it all 
for your good. Still, I am afraid it 
means that you have lost money in 
some way, which is always rather dis- 
heartening." 

" No, Mrs. Foxborough ; I have 
lost no money, but I have spent it. 
You see before you a reformed char- 
acter, bubbling over with virtuous 
resolutions." 

" Let me see him quick," cried Nid, 
as she advanced into the room, " be- 
fore he has bubbled over and there is 
no virtuous resolution left." 

"Nid, my darling !" said her mother, 
reprovingly. 

" You are right, Miss Foxborough ; 
' methinks he doth protest too much.' 
Nevertheless, my fair confederate, 
your advice has been taken, the oracle 
has spoken. I am going to rise in 
future at half-past eight, to retire to 
bed early ; in fact, to become a 
regular business man and leading 
citizen." 

" And what is to be the business, 
and where?" asked Nid, as they 
walked in to dinner. 

" Upon my honour, I don't know, 
but it must be immensely facilitated 
by early rising ; don't you think so, 
Mrs. Foxborough ? Let me manage 
that chicken for you. I assure you I 
spent this morning in the study of 
alarum clocks. I never yet slept with 
one of those fiendish instruments of 
torture in the room. It must be a 
perfect acoustic shower-bath when it 
goes off." 

" But, mind, you will have to get up 
when it calls you, and not behave like 
that bad-tempered man at Cambridge 
you told me about who only threw his 
boots at them, and broke twenty-seven 
one term," laughed Nid. 

" Ah ! poor Tom Rawlinson. I am 
afraid I am a little like him. He was 
always going to begin reading, but he 



52 



AT FAULT 



got plucked for his ' smalls, 1 and faded 
away from academic groves in spite 
of all his resolutions and mechanical 
contrivances." 

" Ah, Mr. Morant, but you are not 
going to share the fate of Mr. Rawlin- 
son, and be what do you call it ? I 
don't know what it means in the least, 
but presume it means failure in some 
shape," exclaimed Mrs. Foxborough. 
" Here's success to the new under- 
taking, whatever it be, and best 
wishes." And so saying, the hostess 
raised her glass to her lips with a 
cheery smile. "And now, Nid, run 
and get your cloak, and tell Ellen to 
bring me mine ; the brougham will be 
round directly." 

No sooner had her daughter left the 
room than Mrs. Foxborough, with her 
accustomed frankness, came to the 
point. 

"You are going away, Mr. Morant," 
she said, "and have no sincerer well- 
wisher than I am. When you come 
back I must ask you to visit us 
rather more sparingly. You doubtless 
mean nothing, but you pay my little 
girl a good deal of attention. She has 
seen nothing of the world as yet, and 
1 don't want the child made a fool of. 
Girls of her age, especially with her 
somewhat romantic temperament, are 
quite apt to mistake good-natured 
courtesy for something more, and I do 
you the justice to think you would 
wish that no more than I should." 

" If I pay your daughter attention, 
Mrs. Foxborough, it is with the de- 
liberate intent of winning her for my 
wife if I can ; so pray don't think of 
my visiting here in any other sense. 
If I have said nothing to you as yet, 
well, I am not quite sure that I have 
made progress enough with Nid to 
justify my doing so." 

These lovers, these lovers — can they 
ever be relied on to tell the exact 
truth ? To each other, of course not, 
for the glamour of their passion 
colours all their speech ; they mean it 
at the time, but it rarely lasts for all 
time. Herbert Morant was hardly 
speaking to the best of his belief when 
he professed to doubt his progress 
with Nid. 

" We won't discuss that for the 
present, Mr. Morant. By your own 
confession you cannot afford to marry 



as yet, and therefore it would be 
hardly fair on so young a girl as Nid 
to hamper her with an engagement. 
Don't get angry at the word hamper — 
I use it advisedly. You can both well 
afford to wait ; and though I don't 
want you to come too often, pray don't 
think you are ' boycotted.' Succeed 
in your new career, and show me you 
can maintain a wife, and if Nid can 
make up her mind you will have no 
enemy in me. Now, Mr. Morant, we 
understand each other, and there's my 
hand." 

Herbert pressed his hostess's hand 
and uttered some incoherent words of 
gratitude, in the midst of which the 
door opened, and in walked the sub- 
ject of their conversation. 

" Really, Mr. Morant, if it wasn't 
with mamma, who can do no wrong, I 
should say I had interrupted a love 
scene," exclaimed Nid. 

" I am not at all sure you haven't," 
rejoined her mother, laughing ; " but 
quick, Ellen, give me my cloak ; it is 
high time we were off." 

"What were you and mamma 
having such a confabulation about?" 
asked Nid, between the acts of the 
Trovatore. 

" Shall I tell you ? She was giving 
her consent to my marriage whenever 
I had acquired sufficient means to 
maintain a wife." 

Nid coloured, and became absorbed 
in contemplation of the house, sweep- 
ing it with her glasses as if in anxious 
search of some much-valued acquaint- 
ance. 

" The trouble will be getting some 
one else's consent afterwards," con- 
tinued Herbert. " Do you think I 
have any chance, Nid ?" 

" How should I know ? " rejoined 
the girl pettishly over her shoulder. 
She knew very well what he meant. 
She regarded herself as tacitly engaged 
to him, but yet she was a little flustered 
at the idea of being asked to marry 
him in downright plain English. She 
was very young, bear in mind. 

" Who should know better, darling ? 
I don't want to ask your mother this, 
Nid. Have I a chance?" 

Still no answer, and Miss Fox 
borough apparently more intent upon 
seeking that valued acquaintance than 
ever. 



THE OPENING OF B A UMBO ROUGH THEATRE 53 



" You won't see me again for some 
time, dearest. Say, at least, you shall 
be glad to see me back." 

Suddenly Nid dropped her opera 
glasses, a little hand stole into 
Morant's, and a murmured " What a 
tease you are, Herbert," fell upon his 
ear. 

It was not a very direct answer to 
his question, but he seemed quite con- 
tent, and till the fall of the curtain, 
Mrs. Foxborough was, sad to say, left 
entirely to her own meditations. 



CHAPTER X 

THE OPENING OF THE BAUMBOROUGH 
THEATRE 

Mr. FOSSDYKE speedily found that 
his prognostications were fulfilled. 
Mr. Totterdell, formerly exasperating 
merely from fatuous curiosity, had 
now become actively malignant. He 
trotted about giving a somewhat 
garbled account of the way he had 
been turned out of Dyke, " merely be- 
cause I expressed, what all Baum- 
borough expresses, some wish to know 
who Miss Hyde really is" : and then 
Mr. Totterdell went on to insinuate 
that if there was not something wrong 
there would surely be no reason to 
make a mystery about her. He hoped 
his poor goddaughter, when she did 
discover the truth, might find it still 
possible to get on with her husband. 
He wished to insinuate nothing, but 
the skeleton in the cupboard was al- 
most certain to be discovered sooner 
or later, and want of perfect confidence 
between man and wife had been pro- 
ductive of domestic unhappiness from 
time out of mind. 

Only din things sufficiently into 
people's heads, and they will end by 
believing anything. They always 
argue that there must be some truth 
in it ; it may not be all true, but there 
is foundation of some sort for the 
story, and before a week was passed 
there were not wanting those in Baum- 
borough who looked askew at Miss 
Hyde. Moreover, Totterdell's pertina- 
cious inquiries into»the financial affairs 
of the Council, attributable chiefly to 
his irritation at having been sharply 
snubbed in Fossdyke's office, began to 
beget a slight distrust of the Town 
Clerk. Onr e more it was buzzed 



about that the tradespeople had al- 
ways trouble in getting their money 
from John Fossdyke, and a vague 
suspicion was abroad that he was in 
monetary difficulties. True, his friends 
argued that it was impossible ; look at 
the emoluments he held, his business 
was pretty good, he had got money 
with his wife, and some of the farmers 
around Baumborough quite guffawed 
at the idea when it reached their ears. 
" Lawyer Fossdyke want money ! 
Why, that bangs all, he's always some 
to lend, man, to any one with decent 
security." Still, spite of all this, there 
were some members of the Municipal 
Council who held it would not be an 
injudicious thing to take strict stock 
of their affairs, to look into their in- 
vestments as well as their books. 

John Fossdyke met all this not 
altogether without annoyance, but 
certainly with unblenching front. His 
accounts, he said, were ready for the 
Town Council whenever they chose to 
demand them, and he should be happy 
to tender ample explanation on any 
point that might not seem perfectly 
clear to them ; but he was not going 
to submit to cross-examination by a 
fussy busybody simply because he 
happened to be elected to the Corpor- 
ation — an individual, moreover, whose 
scandalous tongue had compelled him 
to close his doors against him. If 
John Fossdyke was not having alto- 
gether a rosy time, neither was Mr. 
Totterdell. Both the Town Clerk and 
Miss Hyde were popular in Baum- 
borough, and a very large portion of 
the community took their parts with 
considerable vehemence. Mr. Totter- 
dell, on the contrary, was very much 
the reverse ; and even those who for 
one motive or another ranged them- 
selves on his side, manifested no little 
contempt for their mischief- making 
leader. Another thing, too, that had 
been a veritable staggerer for Mr. 
Totterdell, was the sudden defection 
of his goddaughter. That gentleman, 
the afternoon he left Dyke, white with 
indignation at being morally kicked 
out of the house, flattered himself that 
Mrs. Fossdyke would take up the 
cudgels in his behalf, and deafen all 
Baumborough with the story of her 
wrongs. Mary Fossdyke did nothing 
of the kind ; she might abuse or find 



54 



AT FAULT 



fault with her husband herself, but, 
like many another woman, she had no 
idea of allowing any one else that 
privilege in her presence. Then 
again, she was honestly a little peni- 
tent about Bessie, and the idea of her 
going made the good lady very un- 
happy. She took the girl about with 
her everywhere, and made more of 
Miss Hyde publicly than ever. Some 
few might look askance, but Mrs. 
Fossdyke carried too many guns for 
this outside circle. She was of the 
very cream of Baumborough society, 
and not to be cowed by Mr. Totter- 
dell's adherents. Indeed that gentle- 
man would very willingly have dropped 
the whole business of inquiry into the 
books of the Town Clerk if he could, 
but he had associates who insisted 
upon his seeing the thing out. Men 
who start agitations or popular cries 
can never estimate where the craze 
may carry them, and when Mr. Totter- 
dell in his petulance allowed himself 
to indulge in innuendo against John 
Fossdyke he little dreamt what would 
come of it. 

Very angry and very sad was Philip 
Soames when these rumours first 
reached his ears. They came to him, 
as might be expected, in exaggerated 
shape. He heard that Miss Hyde 
had turned out to be John Fossdyke's 
illegitimate daughter, that there had 
been a tremendous scene at Dyke 
upon Mrs. Fossdyke's making the 
discovery, she having been all along 
under the delusion that the young lady 
was her husband's niece, that there 
had been a terrible quarrel, which had 
been temporarily patched up, the 
Town Clerk and his wife having 
agreed to keep their differences at 
all events to themselves, that Mrs. 
Fossdyke was going about everywhere 
with Miss Hyde just to throw dust in 
people's eyes, but she had stipulated 
Miss Hyde should be sent away at the 
end of the month. Further, that the 
Town Clerk was said to be in money 
difficulties, and the Municipal* Council 
would probably deprive him of his 
appointment. 

Phil Soames was a sensible young 
man, and did not take all he heard for 
gospel, but he could not but recall his 
last interview with Bessie, and wonder 
to himself was this her secret. It 



was quite possible she might view the 
stain upon her birth in such exagger- 
ated fashion as to deem it a bar to 
entering a respectable family as a 
daughter. It was hard to believe that 
a bright, handsome, straightforward 
girl such as Bessie Hyde could have 
any shameful story of her own to tell ; 
but that she might have been brought 
up to consider her illegitimacy placed 
her under a ban was easy of under- 
standing. Phil Soames went grimly 
about his work in a manner very 
different from his wont ; he stuck to 
it, if anything, more pertinaciously 
than ever, but the spring seemed out 
of him. He laboured more like a 
machine, very different from the gay, 
light-hearted manner that was habitual 
to him. His love for Bessie Hyde 
was no passing fancy, and Mr. Philip 
Soames was very tenacious about 
what he took in hand, be it what it 
might. But he felt powerless in this 
instance. He could not discover what 
he had to combat ; unless he could 
prevail upon Miss Hyde to tell him 
her story, he was helpless. 

Mr. Fossdyke, too, after his absence 
from home, found so many things that 
required his attention that he was 
deeply immersed in business, and so 
never found time somehow to see 
Phil Soames and confide to him 
Bessie's history. The girl constantly 
wondered whether he had done so, 
but, as may be easily understood, was 
shy of reminding him of their conver- 
sation. As for Mrs. Fossdyke, she 
had studiously avoided all reference 
to delicate subjects since the scene in 
the rosary, and though her husband 
not only recognised, but had told her 
so, how well she had done her wifely 
duty in confronting all the scandal 
Mr. Totterdell had set rolling, yet he 
had been no more communicative to 
her than to Phil Soames ; so that re- 
lations in the Dyke family still lacked 
confidence and cordiality all round in 
great measure. One thing specially 
noticeable, as many remembered after- 
wards, was, that John Fossdyke seemed 
out of spirits, and somewhat irritable 
all the time. Anfl yet one of the 
schemes he had set his heart on had 
arrived at maturity, for the Baum- 
borough Theatre was a thing accom- 
plished, and the opening night, under 



THE OPENING OF BAUMBOROUGH THEATRE 55 



the patronage of the Mayor and 
Municipal Council, announced in 
gigantic posters all through the length 
and breadth of the town. If Baum- 
borough had doubted whether it 
wanted a theatre at one time, it had 
no sort of uncertainty but that was 
one of its requirements now — in fact, 
Baumborough was all agog for the 
eventful evening, and quite marvelled 
how it had managed to endure life so 
long without a dramatic temple. 
Everybody was going, not only the 
upper social stratum, but all the 
tradespeople and the shopmen had 
announced their intention of being 
present. A lessee of substance had 
been procured, and he had made 
satisfactory arrangements with an ex- 
cellent provincial company to take 
Baumborough in their tour, and the 
theatre was accordingly announced to 
open with a Robertsonian comedy. 

It was curiously illustrative of the 
old axiom, that he who bears the brunt 
of the battle does not always get the 
credit of winning the fight, for the 
biggerhalf of Baumborough were under 
a hazy impression that the erection 
of the theatre was due chiefly to the 
unflagging exertions of Mr. Totterdell. 
It was true he told every one so, and 
there is no doubt if you persistently 
tell people a consistent story of your- 
self, the majority will in the end be- 
lieve you. He had been the bane of 
the contractors' life, with his endless 
questions and impossible suggestions, 
for he had been perpetually in and 
out all the time the building was in 
hand, while John Fossdyke, without 
whom the thing never would have 
come to pass, had seldom gone near it. 
Mr. Totterdell was now buzzing about 
like a hilarious bluebottle, rubbing his 
hands and saying he had devoted a 
good deal of time to it, to say nothing 
of taking a good deal of trouble ; but 
he did think — yes, he might venture 
to say Baumborough would pronounce 
it a very bright, pretty little house 
when they saw it. And people be- 
lieved this old impostor, who in reality 
had vexed the souls of those entrusted 
with the work, and even in some cases 
slightly hindered it. 

But the evening came, and the 
market-place of Baumborough re- 
sounded with the rattle of wheels ; 



vehicles of all descriptions rolled over 
its stones, private carriages from round 
about and the suburbs of the town, 
hack flies hired from the principal inns, 
even the hotel omnibuses were in 
requisition, and the ladies of Baum- 
borough, in silk and satin, flounce 
and furbelow, thronged into the stalls 
and boxes. It was a full house — 
stalls, pit, dress circle, upper boxes, 
and gallery were crowded ; and during 
the overture Baumborough had plenty 
to do in admiring the really pretty 
little theatre it had acquired, and in 
exchanging salutes. The Mayor was 
there with all his family, beaming in 
all the glory of a stage box. The 
Town Council generally were scattered 
about, including not only Mr. Totter- 
dell, more than ever convinced that 
this gaily-lighted festive amphitheatre 
was all his creation, but even Stanger, 
its whilom fierce opponent ; but Stanger, 
the representative of Pickleton Ward, 
was a sound, practical man, who said he 
combated theories, but always ac- 
cepted accomplished facts. 

John Fossdyke, with his wife and 
Miss Hyde, were there in a stage box 
opposite the Mayor's. Mr. Philip 
Soames was there, moodily meditating 
whether it would be out of place to go 
round between the acts and say " how 
do you do ? " to Mrs. Fossdyke. Several 
of the clergy were there, who without 
being engaged in that incongruous 
absurdity, " the Stage and Church 
Guild," could see no harm in the inno- 
cent amusement the English stage 
as a rule affords. There are plenty of 
extremists of all creeds in these days, 
alas ! who, by their puritanical dog- 
mas, are teaching men rapidly to 
profess no creed at all, and cannot be 
made to see the harm done to all re- 
ligion by their rabid intolerance. 

The curtain rises on that old 
favourite play, " Ours," and the audi- 
ence greet the garden scene at once 
with a good-humoured burst of 
applause. A play that always goes, if 
played, and yet makes us sometimes 
wonder why it should, the grand 
effect of the second act culminating in 
a lady making a pudding in the third. 
It certainly was Mrs. Bancroft who 
was the original compounder of that 
pudding, and that goes for a good 
deal. Her business has become, of 



56 



AT FAULT 



course, traditional. The piece went 
as well as ever, the company were 
capable, and the audience were de- 
lighted. Seated next to Mr. Totter- 
dell was a dark-complexioned gentle- 
man, attired in the orthodox sables, 
who exercised that gentleman im- 
mensely. He was apparently a stran- 
ger, at all events Mr. Totterdell had 
never seen him before, and any enigma 
of this kind had the mysterious fas- 
cination that double acrostics have 
upon some people. 

" Monstrous pretty little theatre," 
remarked the stranger, at the end of 
the first act. " I suppose all your 
leading notables are here to-night — 
the Mayor that, I presume, judging by 
his chain of office, and, God bless 
me " and here the stranger sud- 
denly paused, and looking rapidly 
round in another direction than the 
stage, inquired who that gentleman 
was in an upper box. 

" That, sir, is a brother member of 
mine on the Municipal Council, Mr. 
Brocklebank, perhaps, next to myself, 
the chief promoter of the theatre you 
have done me the honour to admire. 
It cost me a good deal of time and 
trouble ; there were prejudices to be 
overcome, but to-night's triumph 
repays me for all. My name, sir, is 
Totterdell— a name you will find toler- 
ably well known in Baumborough. 
May I ask to whom I have the pleasure 
of speaking ?'' 

" My name ! Ah, yes ! my name ! 
My name is Vyater, and I am staying 
in the neighbourhood." 

" Vyater — a very singular wuna ; 
sounds as if you were of foreign ex- 
traction." 

" Yes, of what is designated nomad 
Italian origin, I fancy. But who is that 
gentleman in the O. P stage box?" 

" Might I ask what you mean by 
that ? " inquired Totterdell. 

" Why, you told me you mainly got 
up the theatre, so I naturally supposed 
you understood theatrical slang. The 
O. P. side means opposite the prompt 
side, and the prompter is always on 
the stage left." 

" Ah, you mean in the box opposite 
the Mayor — that is John Fossdyke, 
our Town Clerk. A bumptious, bad- 
tempered man, that I intend to have 
turned out of the place before long. 



He don't know his place," continued 
Totterdell with increasing acerbity. 
" He does not seem to understand, 
sir, that he is the servant of the Coun- 
cil, and when servants don't compre- 
hend their situations we discharge 
them" ; and when Mr. Totterdell got 
so earnest in his language, a reproving 
hush ran round the adjacent pit and 
stalls, for the curtain had just risen on 
the second act. 

" John Fossdyke," said the stranger 
in a low tone ; " would you mind 
spelling it for me ? " 

Mr. Totterdell, in a much subdued 
voice, at once complied with the 
request. 

" Grand dramatic effect that," ob- 
served the stranger, as the curtain fell 
on the measured tramp of the soldiery 
on their way to the East, at the con- 
clusion of the second act. " Mr. Foss- 
dyke been settled long in Baum- 
borough ? " 

" Gracious, yes, many years ; but what 
makes you interested about that ? " 

" Can hardly say that," replied the 
stranger with much nonchalance. " I 
have some idea I knew a Fossdyke 
somewhat early in life. Bless you, I 
can't even recollect where. School 
with him, perhaps. Can't say where 
I met him, exactly ; not that I mean 
to say that your Baumborough Foss- 
dyke is my Fossdyke. Not even sure 
whether mine was a Fossdyke or a 
Mossdyke. Met him on business, 
perhaps." 

" Just so ; quite likely. What did 
you say your business was, Mr. 
Vyater?" inquired Mr. Totterdell 
eagerly. 

" I don't know that I said anything 
about my business," answered the 
other with an amused smile. 

" You seem to know a good deal 
about theatricals. Are you connected 
with the profession in any way ? " 

" Well, I might be, and then again 
I might be connected with coals," re- 
joined the stranger, laughing. "Yes, 
I do know a little about theatricals ; 
considering I dabble in them a good 
deal I ought to. You've gratified my 
curiosity, so I'll gratify yours. My 
business here was to see your new 
theatre and calculate whether I could 
get anything out of it on some future 
occasion." 



THE OPENING OE BAUMBOROUGH THEATRE 57 



"And you're much gratified, of 
course?" remarked Toiterdell pom- 
pously. 

"Hum! If I've seen ' Ours ' once 
I should think I've seen it thirty times. 
It's done well here, but I've seen it 
done better. You've a big house to- 
night ; but if you're a fisherman you'll 
understand what I mean when I say 
this is the first cast of the net in 
a new swim. It's a chance whether 
you will catch as many fish again. 
No, I've reckoned you up ; you're 
worth a fifty pound note, for a two 
days' spec, might run to a little more." 

" Nonsense, sir ; why I look forward 
to a regular theatre open nearly all the 
year round." 

" Bosh," responded the stranger 
blandly, if not politely. " Your lessee's 
no such fool as that ; he knows if he 
tried that game the shutters would be 
up for good after the first year. Stock 
companies, as a rule, my good sir, are 
amongst the institutions of the past." 

Bosh ! to a Town Councillor ! 
Mr. Totterdell felt this was revolution- 
ary, an upheaval of things, prophetic 
of woe to the nation. The word bosh 
might possibly be used by one Town 
Councillor to another. The great 
Stanger, indeed, upon one memor- 
able occasion, had recourse to the 
somewhat offensive word, but it was 
not to be permitted of the outside 
public. However, before he could 
clothe the rebuke that rose to his lips 
in words of sufficient severity, the 
curtain rose upon the third act. 

" Now, my friend,' : said the un- 
abashed stranger, " you'll understand 
there's a good deal in the making of 
a pudding. If it wasn't cleverly com- 
pounded this act wouldn't pull through." 

Philip Soames, after a stern argu- 
ment with himself, had at last deter- 
mined that common politeness re- 
quired he should go round and pay 
his respects to Mrs. Fossdyke. After 
chatting a bit with that lady and her 
husband, he lingered a little at the 
back of the box with Miss Hyde. 

"Am I to take your answer of the 
other day as final, Bessie? "he whis- 
pered. 

" I am afraid so, Philip," she re- 
plied softly. " Unless indeed — but 
that, I fancy, is unlikely." 

"Unless what?" he asked brusquely. 



" Unless Mr. Fossdyke speaks to 
you about me. If he should you will 
at all events know why I feel I am 
bound, injustice to yourself, Philip, to 
say no when I would gladly say yes. 
I make no secret that I love you, but I 
cannot many you." 

" Mr. Fossdyke speak to me ! " he 
replied. "What about? Is it likely?" 

" No ; I don't know ; I should think 
not. Please don't ask me anything 
more, Philip." 

" I won't now, nor will I till I have 
had a talk with Mr. Fossdyke ; if he 
does not speak to me I mean to speak 
to him, Bessie. Good night," and, 
having pressed her hand warmly, 
Philip Soames withdrew to witness the 
third act of " Ours." 

John Fossdyke looked gloomily on 
at this, as indeed he had at the whole 
representation. Considering how 
energetic he had been about promoting 
the erection of the building, it was 
singular how little interest he took in 
the play. He never left his box, and 
said but little to either his wife or Bessie ; 
but gazed at the stage in a moody, 
pre-occupied fashion, as a man might 
who was there from a sense of duty, 
but who, far from being either inter- 
ested or amused, was scarce conscious 
of the pageant passing before his eyes. 
More than once the stranger eyed him 
keenly, and at last said in a low voice, 

" I suppose Mr. Foss — Fossdyke 
thinks from his official position that 
he's bound to attend when the Mayor 
and Council patronise the show, or 
else he gives me the idea of rather 
disapproving of theatricals, or at all 
events being somewhat bored with 
them." 

" There you make a mistake," re- 
turned Totterdell. " He was one of 
the advocates of the scheme, but he 
turned out a bit of a humbug." 

'' How so ?" 

"Why, he said he understood a 
good deal about theatricals, but the 
minute the thing was in hand and 
fairly begun, he never came near the 
place. No, sir, the whole superintend- 
ing of the building was left to me, and 
a pretty life I led the contractors I 
can tell you." 

In justice to Mr. Totterdell, it must 
be admitted that the contractors 
would have subscribed to this opinion 



58 



AT FAULT 



" Oh, they want looking after, those 
fellows," rejoined the stranger care- 
lessly. " Fossdyke any family ? Is 
that his daughter, for instance, in the 
box with him ? " 

" No, that's Miss Hyde ; a mystery ; 
no one in Baumborough knows who 
she is, and when I say she isn't his 
daughter she may be for all I know. 
I don't say she is, but she may be. 
She may be anybody, indeed." 

" Quite so. Nice-looking girl, any- 
how,'' replied the stranger. 

" She's a very flippant young 
woman," retorted Totterdell quickly, 
who had his suspicions that Bessie 
sometimes rather laughed at him. 
" Lor' ! " he continued, " it quite 
makes one shiver," as the simulated 
whistle of the wild Crimean snow- 
storm from the stage smote upon 
their ears, and Sergeant Brown enters 
the hut, accompanied by a rush of 
snowflakes. 

"Great effect from a well-toned 
whistle and a winnowing machine at 
the wing, isn't it? So they don't 
know who Miss Hyde is, eh ? " 

" No. You seem to take rather an 
interest in Fossdyke's family, Mr. 
Vyater. By the bye, how do you spell 
your name ? " 

" Depends upon what branch of 
the family you belong to," rejoined 
the stranger. " As a speller I'm 
always variable ; it isn't my strong 
point." 

"And you are stopping?" asked 
Mr. Totterdell. 

" Bless you, I hope not. I'm like 
an eight days' clock, I never stop 
unless I'm run down. I'm always 
on the move, here, there, and every- 
where. ' I'm always on the move, sir,' 
as the old song says." 

Mr. Totterdell said no more ; it 
had suddenly occurred to him that 
this stranger was as flippant as Miss 
Hyde, and no more disposed to give 
an account of himself. Mr. Totterdell 
distrusted people who were not pre- 
pared to unfold their lives and pur- 
suits, at all events so far as he was 
concerned, and he both feared and 
reprobated that favourite pastime of 
the present day called "chaff." He 
was conscious of much inability to 
take part in that amusement, and that 
when cast amongst it he was like the 



blind man in the game of blind man's 
buff, the recipient of many tweeks, 
buffets, and pinches, and with no 
recollection of having caught any one. 

The comedy came to a conclusion 
amidst tumultuous applause, all the 
performers were " called," and then 
came a pause before the after-piece, 
during which the Mayor and a few of 
the leading citizens went behind the 
scenes to congratulate the manager 
It was not to be supposed that fussy, 
pompous Mr. Totterdell, who had 
finally convinced himself that he was 
the founder of the Theatre Royal, 
Baumborough, would neglect this cere- 
mony. But although he had haunted 
the building during its growth, Mr. 
Totterdell was a novice behind the 
scenes. He lost his way, got his toes 
trod on by carpenters and scene- 
shifters, and finally was brought up 
" all standing" in speechless astonish- 
ment at coming across the flippant 
stranger engaged in conversation with 
a lady whom he at once recognised 
as the portrayer of " Mary Netley " 
in the comedy. 

" If you are looking for the manager's 
room it's there to the left. Here, one 
of you fellows, just show this gentle- 
man to Mr. Sampson's room, will you, 
please," said the stranger airily. 

" Who is he ? Who the devil is 
he ? " muttered Totterdell, as he fol- 
lowed his guide. " I'll ask Sampson ; 
he's sure to know." 

But in that Mr. Totterdell was mis- 
taken. The manager had a somewhat 
numerous levee, and consequently but 
little time to give to any one indi- 
vidual. He could naturally give no 
answer as to who a man was whom 
he didn't see, and had very insufficient 
time to have described to him. Mr. 
Totterdell emerged from Mr. Samp- 
son's sanctum no whit the wiser, only 
to find the stranger still discoursing 
volubly with some other members of 
the company, and the old gentleman's 
curiosity began to attain white heat 
concerning whom he might be. 

John Fossdyke had not been 
amongst those who had "gone round" 
to congratulate Mr. Sampson, and to 
drink success to the Baumborough 
Theatre, for the champagne corks 
were flying in the manager's room ; 
that wine, as is well known, being 



THE OPENING OF B A UM BOROUGH THEATRE 59 



rather a speciality of all theatrical 
enterprises. The Town Ckrk certainly 
justified the stranger's criticism, and 
looked as if, though some sense of 
duty constrained him to be there, his 
thoughts were miles away. He looked 
round the house very little, and gazed 
at the stage in a dreamy, abstracted 
manner that attracted his wife's atten- 
tion. She could not understand her 
restless, energetic husband in this 
absent and apathetic state, and at 
last said to him, " Are you ill, John? 
If so, perhaps we had better go home 
at once." 

"No, nothing is the matter. I have 
a bit of a headache, but I will see it 
out. We must, Mary ; the carriage 
won't turn up till the performance is 
over, remember." 

In the meantime the stranger had 
once more resumed his seat at Mr. 
Totterdell's side, and that gentleman 
determined once more to try a little 
cross-examination. 

" You seem tolerably at home be- 
hind the scenes, sir," he remarked. 

" Yes," rejoined the other carelessly, 
" the back of the floats is no novelty 
to me ; but," he continued, laughing, 
" considering you built the theatre, it 
struck me you weren't very good at 
finding your way about, you seemed 
regularly dumbfoozled." 

Mr. Totterdell swelled like an out- 
raged turkey-cock. Was this the way 
to address a Town Councillor ? And 
he bad given the stranger clearly to 
understand that he held that dignified 
office. He did not exactly know what 
dumbfoozled might mean, but no- 
body could regard the being told 
they looked dumbfoozled as compli- 
mentary. 

" Well, I can't afford to see this 
farce out, good though it is," and as 
he spoke, the stranger rose, drew a 
silk muffler out of the pocket of his 
overcoat, which had been hanging 
over the back of his stall, and as he 
did so, a piece of paper, evidently 
drawn out with the muffler, fluttered 
to the ground. Mr. Totterdell was 
fascinated ; his eyes had caught the 
fall of the paper ; could he but obtain 
it he would very likely get at what he 
was so anxious to know, namely, who 
the stranger was. It was a blank 
envelope, that much Mr. Totterdell 



could see already. The stranger was 
most provokingly deliberate about 
muffling his throat and getting into 
his overcoat ; but at last, all uncon- 
scious of his loss, he bade Mr. Totter- 
dell a courteous good-night and lefr 
the theatre. Mr. Totterdell waited a 
few minutes to be quite sure of his 
departure, gazed furtively around to 
see if he was observed — no, all eyes 
were on the stage — and then pounced 
upon the envelope. It was open and 
unaddressed ; and from the interior 
Mr. Totterdell extracted a theatrical 
bill. It was the programme of the 
Syringa Music Hall ; lessee, Mr. 
Foxborough ; and once again Mr. 
Totterdell felt that the acquisition of 
knowledge of our fellows is sometimes 
an arduous and difficult pursuit. 

But the curtain comes down at last 
amidst a storm of applause, in re- 
sponse to which it again rises, and 
" God save the Queen " is sung by the 
whole company. This was hardly a 
success, the orchestra and the leading 
lady who took the solos not being 
altogether in accord about the key, 
while the company generally seemed 
each to have their own version of the 
National Anthem, and adhere to it 
with contemptuous disregard of their 
companions. Still, as the audience 
made their way to their respective 
homes, they agreed that the Baum- 
borough Theatre was a great success. 
Mr. Totterdell only felt discontented. 
The mysterious stranger weighed upon 
his mind. Who the deuce was he ? 
The music-hall bill that Mr. Totterdell 
had so eagerly pounced upon, even 
that gentleman was fain to confess 
told nothing ; people of all classes 
went to such places of amusement, 
and though Mr. Totterdell had never 
heard of the particular hall in ques- 
tion, he made no doubt it was much 
of a muchness with other places of 
the kind. No, there was nothing to 
be made out of that, yet Mr. Totter- 
dell literally yearned to know who the 
stranger might be. 

Breakfast at Dyke was at an early 
hour, and the post-bag generally 
arrived in the middle of that meal. 
John Fossdyke opened it as usual 
next morning, and distributed the 
letters, and then began leisurely to 
run through his own. Suddenly an 



6o 



AT FAULT 



ejaculation escaped him, and it was 
plain to Bessie and Mrs. Fossdyke, 
who looked towards him at the half 
cry, that the letter he was reading 
moved him terribly. For a moment 
his face blanched to his very lips and 
his mouth quivered — the hand that 
held the letter shook, and Mrs. Foss- 
dyke, springing from her chair, ex- 
claimed, " Good heavens ! John, what 
is the matter?" 

The Town Clerk mastered himself 
by a supreme effort, and rejoined in 
husky tones, " Nothing, Mary, nothing 
now ; please don't fidget." 

" But you have heard bad news of 
some sort ? " 

"Yes, I have heard bad news. 
Now, do sit down, and don't make a 
fuss. I must go over to Bunbury this 
afternoon, and may not be back — in 
fact, shall probably not get back to- 
night." 

" But, John, it is only an hour's 
rail to Bunbury ; surely you can get 
through your business and come 
home by the last train. You look so 
ill, I shall feel dreadfully uneasy if 
you don't come back." 

Miss Hyde looked anxious, although 
she forebore to speak. 

" No, I don't think it likely I shall 
be able to get back to-night. Tell 
Robert to put up a few things in my 
bag and bring it down to the office. 
Good-bye, Mary ; good-bye, Bessie " ; 
and John Fossdyke kissed his wife 
with unusual gravity, and went his 
way. 



CHAPTER XI 

"a dinner at the hopbine" 

Bunbury was a pretty, old-fashioned 
little town, distant some thirty miles 
from Baumborough, with which it had 
direct communication by rail. Bun- 
bury rather turned up its nose at 
Baumborough, although double its 
size, as an essentially modern produc- 
tion, for Bunbury bad been the resort 
of the cream of society a hundred 
years ago, when Baumborough, albeit 
in existence, was of very small account. 
Bunbury lay in a hole, but boasted a 
Spa, a delightful old-world promenade 
fringed with trees, and shops under 
shady arcades, and assembly rooms, 



which enjoyed a prestige of the past. 
Inhabitants of Bunbury who accosted 
you told you of all sorts of royalties 
and celebrities who had disported 
themselves in minuet and country 
dance upon those boards, while the 
pump-room had in its day enjoyed a 
celebrity only second to Bath. It was 
a delicious, dreamy old town for an 
overworked man to come to ; the 
quaint old red-brick houses and that 
delightful drowsy old promenade, 
with its benches, whereon to sit and 
listen to the everlasting German band, 
a good one be it understood, was just 
the perfection of utter indolence. 
The country all round, too, was charm- 
ing with its luxuriance of wood inter- 
spersed by occasional glorious patches 
of moorland, and made Bunbury a 
place much in vogue with London 
men who wanted a few days' rest, for 
it was no great distance from the 
metropolis, and the communication 
easy. 

Bunbury, built in a hole, or perhaps 
I should say at the foot of a hill, had 
gradually spread up the ascent, the 
sides of which were now studded with 
villas and hotels, and it is with one of 
these last we have now to do. The 
" Hopbine" had been one of the very 
first hostelries built, as the towns- 
people would say, "up hill." It was 
an old-fashioned house, and though 
with a capital name, and very good 
quiet country connection, was com- 
pletely eclipsed by its more magnifi- 
cent neighbours. Still its habitues 
were wont to assert that there was a 
good deal more comfort to be got out 
of the unpretentious Hopbine than 
out of its more gorgeous competitors, 
and that old Joe Marlinson had better 
stuff in his cellars than any one else 
in Bunbury. The landlord was a bit 
of a character. He had a fairish sum 
of money laid by, at all events enough 
to make him independent, and though 
courteous ever to his regular cus- 
tomers, or to any one he reckoned a 
gentleman, he could be unmistakably 
awkward to those who did not come 
up to what he considered the Hopbine 
standard, for the old man was fussily 
convinced that the Hopbine was the 
leading inn in Bunbury, and that no 
real gentry ever went to those new- 
fangled hotels. Joe Marlinson, who 



"A DINNER AT THE HOPBINE" 



61 



looked like a respectable old butler in 
appearance, and dressed in a some- 
what bygone fashion, still held to the 
venerable term inn, and alluded to 
" those hotels " with undisguised con- 
tempt. The Hopbine paid its way 
doubtless, but worked as it was under 
Joe Marlinson's rule, it was a house 
no man could get much of a living out 
of. Old Marlinson worked it more 
for pleasure than profit, and were you 
not a gentleman in his practised eyes, 
he would as soon be rid of you as not. 
He didn't care so much about what a 
customer spent as what he was — he 
was always saying the old house 
should never lose caste in his day. It 
had never entertained any but quality, 
and it never should while he lived. It 
always had been the inn of the coun- 
try gentlemen round Bunbury, and he 
wasn't going to keep a house for riff- 
raff. 

One Saturday afternoon there ar- 
rived at the Hopbine a gentleman 
from London, who desired a bedroom 
and sitting-room from that day till 
Monday. Although he had engaged 
a sitting-room, he elected to dine in 
the coffee-room. Having finished his 
dinner, he desired the waiter to get 
him an evening paper, without think- 
ing that this merely meant his seeing 
the first edition of the Globe, which he 
had read coming down in the train. 
When he became aware of his mis- 
take, he exclaimed, " Pooh, waiter, I 
have seen this. Get me something 
else. Haven't you a local paper ? " 

The waiter produced the Bunbury 
Chronicle, after which the stranger 
proceeded to meditate and sip his 
coffee. At last he once more called 
the waiter and said, " I see there's a 
new theatre open at Baumborough on 
Monday, I suppose I can get back if I 
go to it ? " 

" Oh, yes, sir ; train leaves Baum- 
borough at 11.40, arrives at Bunbury 
12.35— just suits, sir." 

"All right, then, let 'em know at 
the bar ; I'll stay over Monday night. 
And now, where's the smoking-room?" 

" Beg pardon, sir, but we haven't a 
regular smoke-room. You can smoke 
here, sir, after nine o'clock, and it 
only wants half an hour. Anything 
more, sir ?" 

" No ; might prove a little too much 



for the establishment if I gave any 
more orders just now. I'll stroll out- 
side with my cigar." 

The gentleman of No. 11, for want 
of a better designation the Hopbine 
was compelled to christen him by the 
number of his room, led a quiet, in- 
offensive life all Sunday and Monday. 
He read, wrote, and smoked a good 
deal in his sitting-room, but as he 
received neither letters nor telegrams, 
the Hopbine remained in complete 
ignorance of No. n's actual status in 
this world, which a little annoyed Mr. 
Marlinson. Still his guest was quiet 
and inoffensive, giving himself neither 
airs nor the house trouble, and though 
Joe Marlinson's mind misgave him 
No. 1 1 was not a genuine gentleman, 
still he thought he might pass in these 
democratic days. On the Monday 
No. 11 dined early, and went to at- 
tend the Baumborough Theatre. 
He returned that night, and the next 
morning gave notice in the bar that 
he should remain another day, ordered 
dinner for two in his own sitting-room, 
and said he expected a gentleman to 
dine with him, who might probably 
want a bed. That afternoon the gen- 
tleman arrived, and a good deal to 
the astonishment of the house, turned 
out to be Mr. Fossdyke, the well- 
known Town Clerk and solicitor of 
Baumborough. Mr. Fossdyke asked 
for No. 1 1 as Mr. Foxborough, and for 
the first time Joe Marlinson and his 
myrmidons became aware of No. n's 
name. 

The two gentlemen sat down to as 
good a dinner as the Hopbine could 
serve up, for No. 1 1 had particularly 
remarked in ordering it that he would 
leave it chiefly to the cook, but let 
there be grouse, and let it be a good 
dinner. He had conferred with Mr. 
Marlinson on the subject of wines, 
and not a little ruffled that worthy's 
bristles by receiving his almost con- 
fidential mention of some very old 
port with a deprecating smile, and 
observing — 

" A grand wine, no doubt, the wine 
of a past generation, who had time to 
nurse their gout when they got it — 
somewhat obsolete in these days of 
hurry and dyspepsia. No, my good 
friend, the driest champagne you have 
in the cellar for dinner and a good sound 



62 



AT FAULT 



claret afterwards. That I think will 
do, and if you have any belief in your 
champagne, don't over-ice it, mind." 

Old Marlinson was not a little net- 
tled by this cool customer. The 
offering to produce that treasured old 
port at all was, he considered, a piece 
of condescension on his part vo a 
stranger, and that it should not have 
been greatly appreciated ruffled the 
old man not a little. He had small 
opinion of men who neither drank old 
ale nor old port. A very antiquated 
landlord indeed was mine host of 
the Hopbine. He got out the required 
wines, and indignantly intended leav- 
ing their preparation and distribution 
to the head waiter, instead of bringing 
in the first bottle of port after dinner 
as was his custom ; but upon seeing 
that Mr. Fossdyke was the guest, he 
changed his mind and resolved to 
have an eye on things. Mr. Fossdyke 
was a man of position and repute 
round the country-side. Not county 
family exactly, though Mr. Fossdyke 
through his wife claimed connection 
with more than one of them, but a 
bustling, energetic man much re- 
spected and looked up to. In short, 
old Joe Marlinson thought it' by no 
means inconsistent with his dignity to 
just pay the compliment of pouring 
out a glass of wine to a man of Mr. 
Fossdyke's calibre. 

It struck the waiter, and also the 
landlord, who contrived to be in the 
room when Mr. Fossdyke arrived, 
that there was no great amount of 
geniality in the greeting of the two 
men, nor, good though the dinner 
was, did they seem to thaw under the 
influence of toothsome soup and side- 
dish, or sparkling wine. Their talk 
seemed somewhat constrained, and 
not of the gay, bordering on boister- 
ous, nature that is apt to characterize 
the meeting of two old chums in a 
tete-a-tete dinner. Especially did it 
strike old Joe Marlinson that Mr. 
Fossdyke seemed out of spirits, and 
though he gulped down bumpers of 
champagne, his appetite seemed very 
indifferent. There was an irritability 
about him, too, which Marlinson, who 
knew him well, had never seen before. 
Dinner ended, the host with no little 
pomposity put a bottle of his best 
claret on the tab'e and then with- 



drew. It was apparently approved, 
for another bottle and yet another 
followed, and it was on nearing the 
door with this last, in that stealthy 
way characteristic of waiters, that 
Thomas, the official in question, 
caught Mr. Fossdyke's voice raised in 
anger, and as he entered the room 
heard the stranger reply in cold, rasp- 
ing tones, " The game is in my hands, 
and those are my terms." The words 
struck him as rather peculiar, but 
presuming it to be some business 
dispute, he did not think very much ot 
it. The seance between the two men 
was late ; brandies and soda followed 
the claret, and though Mr. Fossdyke 
was not reputed a wine-bibber, he 
certainly was by no means abstemious 
this night. 

The Hopbine was an early house, 
and Bunbury might certainly claim to 
be an early place. It was only here 
and there that the unhallowed click of 
the billiard balls could be heard even 
after eleven. Bunbury was Arcadian 
in its habits, blessed, doubtless, with 
all the petty spites and malice we shall 
recognise in that visionary land when 
we get there. At a few minutes after 
eleven, Thomas the waiter inquired if 
No. ii would require anything more 
before the bar closed, and being an- 
swered in the negative, wished the 
gentlemen good-night, and was about 
to leave the room, when the stranger 
called him back, said that he must 
leave by the 8.30 train for London 
next morning, requested that his bill 
might be ready, and himself called 
accordingly — that is, a good hour be- 
fore. Thomas carried out these 
orders, gave due notice in the bar, 
and having done that betook himself 
to bed. 

Mr. Foxborough responded promptly 
to the chambermaid's appeal next 
morning. He was ready in good 
time, swallowed a cup of tea, bolted 
an egg, paid his bill, including the 
preceding night's dinner, and departed 
to the station in the hotel omnibus, an 
institution which, much against his 
grain, Joe Marlinson had found him- 
self compelled to adopt. Mr. Foss- 
dyke was late next morning, very late ; 
but though Marlinson knew the Town 
Clerk very well it was the first time 
he had ever stayed at the Hopbine, 



"A DINNER AT THE HOPBINE 



63 



and consequently they knew nothing 
of his habits. Upon the few occasions 
that John Fossdyke had slept in Bun- 
bury he had stayed at the house of a 
friend, but it was rarely when business 
called him there that he did not man- 
age to get back to Baumborough at 
night. Still, though he had given no 
orders, the head chambermaid thought 
she might take it on her own respon- 
sibility to knock at his door at ten, a 
late hour for Bunbury, but there was 
no reply ; and that damsel, knowing 
from the depths of her experience that 
men sometimes were long sleeping off 
their wine, and having gathered from 
Thomas that No. i t's little dinner had 
been prolific in the matter of drink, 
troubled her head no more until about 
twelve, when she again tapped at the 
door. That is the discomfort of these 
semi-civilized districts ; in our provin- 
cial hotels, as in America, they won't 
let you sleep. In London or Paris I 
don't suppose they would disturb you 
for two or three days ; they under- 
stand the cosmopolitan citizen in those 
places, who is very uncertain in his 
getting up and lying down. However, 
again that chambermaid met no re- 
sponse, and again she went away on 
the fidget. No uneasiness, bear in 
mind, with regard to the health of 
John Fossdyke, but she liked to see 
her rooms done by midday or there- 
abouts, and Mr. Fossdyke was upset- 
ing the whole of her routine by his 
persistent slumbers. It is astonishing 
how interfering with their routine 
exasperates people, and that men 
should ever invite one to breakfast is 
cause of enmity in the minds of many ; 
there are those, remember, who would 
always prefer attending a friend's 
funeral to his breakfast. The one is a 
final solemnity, the other capable of 
ghastly repetition. Those breakfasts 
of Rogers make one shiver to read 
about. A sarcasm with your French 
roll, and your cutlet served up in an 
epigram at your own expense. 

But in the meantime we are forget- 
ting John Fossdyke. Two o'clock 
came, and still the Town Clerk made 
no sign. That a man could slumber 
to that hour in the day was beside the 
Hopbine experience. The chamber- 
maid knocked once more, and this 
time as a person having authority, 



who would not longer be denied ; but 
still there was no response nor sound 
to be heard from within the chamber. 
The woman got uneasy, and resolved 
to acquaint her master. Mr. Marlin- 
son opened his eyes wide when he 
heard of the state of things. He in 
particular, of specially early habits, 
could understand no man taking such 
prolonged and unnatural rest. Mr. 
Fossdyke might have had a fit ; the 
chambermaid was instructed to batter 
the door once more, and, failing to get 
reply, to immediately report the same 
to Mr. Marlinson. 

The woman did as she was bid, but 
speedily returned to say that she could 
get no answer whatever from Mr. 
Fossdyke's chamber, and her face 
showed clearly that she feared some- 
thing amiss. Old Marlinson himself 
thought the thing looked serious, and 
at once ascended the stairs, and after 
delivering himself of a storm of knocks, 
enough to have awakened the seven 
sleepers, without response, he turned 
the handle. 

" It's no use, sir," said the chamber- 
maid ; " it's locked. I tried it myself 
before I came to you." 

But the lock was only such as is on 
ordinary bedroom doors ; there was no 
bolt, and at the instigation of his 
master, the boots, with a vigorous kick 
or two, speedily burst it open. The 
blinds were drawn close, and the glim- 
mer of daylight that penetrated the 
apartment did not at first permit eyes 
blinded with the full flood of sunlight 
to see what was within the room ; but 
already a great awe fell upon them ; 
and the unbroken stillness told them 
they were in the presence of a terrible 
tragedy. Quickly old Marlinson en- 
tered the room and drew up the blind 
from the nearest window, and then a 
scream from the chambermaid broke 
the silence. Half-dressed under the 
window at the. other side of the room 
lay John Fossdyke, a smile almost on 
his face, but with a quaint, old-fash- 
ioned dagger buried in his heart. A 
chair and the writing-table which 
stood in the window were both upset, 
but otherwise there was no sign of a 
severe struggle, neither was there 
much blood. The weapon, the ob- 
vious cause of death, had been left in 
the wound, and prevented any great 



6 4 



AT FAULT 



effusion of blood. The shirt-front was 
a little stained, that was all. 

For a few seconds old Joe Marlinson 
stood stupefied. Murder is happily 
not customary in hotels, and the pre- 
sent tragedy was quite outside the old 
man's experience. The boots, a prac- 
tical man, was the first to recall him 
to a sense of the situation. 

" I suppose, sir," he said, after rais- 
ing the dead man's head for a moment, 
and then becoming conscious of the 
inability of any one in this world to 
do aught for him, once more gently 
allowing it to rest upon the floor — " I 
had best fetch the police and send for 
a doctor." 

" Fetch the police ! Yes," repeated 
old Marlinson, rousing himself —"yes, 
and a doctor, and in the meantime 
close this room ; and mind," he said, 
turning to the chambermaid, " nobody 
is to enter it. Draw a table, or some- 
thing, across the door, as the lock is 
broke," and then the old gentleman 
went down to his snuggery and pon- 
dered what he should do next. 

The result of his cogitations was 
that evening Dr. Ingleby received a 
telegram — 

" Something very serious happened 
to Mr. Fossdyke ; please come over 
by first train. 

" From Joseph Marlinson, Hopbine 
Hotel, Bunbury." 



CHAPTER XII 

SERGEANT SILAS USHER 

Chief-Inspector Thresher, head 
of the Bunbury police force, was a 
shrewd, energetic officer, and no sooner 
was the intelligence of the murder at 
the Hopbine conveyed to him than 
he at once started for that hostelry. 
When he arrived he found Dr. Dun- 
come, a good old-fashioned leading 
physician of the town, already in the 
room, with Joe Marlinson, the boots, 
William Gibbons, and Eliza Salter, 
the head chambermaid. Dr. Dun- 
come's examination was short and 
conclusive ; there could be no doubt 
but what Mr. Fossdyke was dead, and 
had been, in the doctor's opinion, dead 
for some hours. He withdrew the 
dagger gently from the breast, thereby 
occasioning some slight additional 



effusion of blood, and solemnly in- 
formed his auditors that, which no one 
of them had ever doubted, was the 
cause of death, and then handed the 
weapon over to the inspector. It was 
a queer little Eastern dagger, such as 
one might pick up easily in Cairo, 
Constantinople, Algiers, or, for the 
matter of that, even in London. The 
sort of weapon that tourists are rather 
given to purchase, turning them into 
drawing-room toys or paper-knives. 
" It has pierced the heart, so far as 
I can judge without the post mortem, 
which will of course follow, and that 
naturally would cause death almost 
instantaneously," continued the doctor, 
and there his part in the business for 
the present ended ; but it was of course 
far otherwise with the inspector. 

He naturally had to hear whatever 
information the inmates of the house 
had to give, and was speedily in pos- 
session of the story of Mr. Fox- 
borough's arrival there on the Satur- 
day, how he stayed on and went to 
the opening of the Baumborough 
Theatre on Monday, how the deceased 
gentleman arrived to dine with him 
on the Tuesday night, how high words 
had been heard to pass between them, 
and how early upon Wednesday morn- 
ing Mr. Foxborough settled his bill 
and departed. Mr. Marlinson, the 
boots, and the chambermaid, were 
unanimous in their opinion that No. n 
was the probable perpetrator of the 
crime ; and as Inspector Thresher 
continued to sift all the evidence he 
could collect, he was fain to admit it 
was difficult to point with suspicion to 
any one else. A further examination 
of the dead man's chamber showed 
his watch and purse untouched on the 
dressing-table, nor did it seem likely 
that any property had been taken from 
his room. Plunder, then, clearly was 
not the motive of the murder. On the 
other hand, he had come over on pur- 
pose to meet this Mr. Foxborough. 
That there had been little cordiality 
between them was borne witness to 
by both the landlord and waiter ; in 
fact, in the opinion of both of those 
the manner of the two men towards 
each other had been markedly con- 
strained, and very different from what 
might have been expected under the 
circumstances. Further, there were 



SERGEANT STLAS USHER 



65 



the high words which the waiter had 
heard, and the rather remarkable ex- 
pression which Mr. Foxborough had 
made use of — " The game is in my 
hands, and those are my terms." And 
yet these words hardly justified the 
conclusion that their utterer would 
rise in the dead of the night and slay 
his guest. Another thing, too, that 
seemed to indicate John Fossdyke 
had been foully murdered was that 
ilie key of the room was gone. If it 
was a case of suicide the key would 
have been probably in the lock, but 
at all events would have been found 
within the room. The doctor had 
said that, as far as he could judge 
from the rapid examination of the 
body he had made, it was possible 
that Mr. Fossdyke was self-murdered, 
though he did not for one moment 
believe such to be the case. Further 
questioning of the boots elicited the 
lact that Mr. Foxborough had taken 
a ticket for London. He, William 
Gibbons, the boots, had gone down 
with the omnibus to the station, as he 
constantly did, seen Mr. Foxborough 
into the train, and put his portmanteau 
into the carriage with him ; it was a 
small portmanteau, such as gentlemen 
put up their things in for a few days' 
visit. It was the through morning 
train to town, patronized chiefly by 
the business men living at Bunbury, 
and stopped nowhere between that 
place and London. 

Having further ascertained that Mr. 
Marlinsqn had telegraphed to Dr. 
lngleby, at Baumborough, Inspector 
Thresher, after a little reflection, 
thought that the best thing he could 
do was to communicate in the same 
way with Scotland Yard, as the appre- 
hension of Mr. Foxborough must 
undoubtedly devolve upon the London 
police. By this time, as may be sup- 
posed, the news of the murder had 
spread through all Bunbury and cre- 
ated a profound sensation, for the 
Town Clerk was known to most of 
the leading citizens, more or less; and 
there is something thrilling when one 
we have known comes to a tragical 
ending in our midst. People congre- 
gated in knots on the promenade, and 
discussed the details of the murder 
as far as they had yet transpired in 
subdued voices, and those who could 



recall having seen the mysterious 
stranger were in great request and 
eagerly questioned. As for William 
Gibbons, he was quite overwhelmed 
with pints of ale and his own popu- 
larity. As a rule Bunbury was not 
wont to exhibit much solicitude about 
the thirst of William, but at present 
they seemed in a conspiracy to quench 
it if practicable, and it may be here 
remarked that William, when it came 
to sound ale, would have bothered a 
garden-engine on that score. 

Joe Marlinson had turned remark- 
ably sulky over the whole affair, re- 
fused to talk about it, and was evi- 
dently in high dudgeon that anybody 
should have had the presumption to 
commit such a terrible crime in an 
old well-established county-house like 
the Hopbine. Regret for poor John 
Fossdyke seemed to be submerged 
in the old man by the indignation 
occasioned by the tragedy having oc- 
curred at the Hopbine. Listening to 
his angry muttering one could almost 
believe that there were inns kept ex- 
pressly in which to make away with 
one's fellow-creatures, and once again 
was reminded that from time im- 
memorial the absurdly grotesque is 
running close alongside the saddest 
catastrophes. The evening brought 
two men to Bunbury, who arrived 
there from opposite directions. The 
first was Dr. lngleby, who had heard 
the whole story of the murder of his 
old friend while waiting for the train 
upon Baumborough platform from 
Phil Soames, whu in his turn had 
learnt it from the guard who had come 
by the previous train from Bunbury, 
and who had charge of a retriever 
for that gentleman ; the meeting of 
which animal indeed was the cause 
of Phil's presence at the station. 

" I haven't time to think much about 
it," exclaimed Dr. lngleby. " I must 
go on to the Hopbine, though I shall 
come back by the next train. From 
what you tell me my presence there 
is useless, and I shall be more wanted 
at Dyke. But, Phil, you must do 
something for me. Mrs. Fossdyke 
must not be left to learn these awful 
tidings by chance, and now the news 
is once in Baumborough, no one can 
say when it will reach her. You must 
«o out to Dyke and break it. No 

c 



66 



T-FAULT 



pleasant task I'm setting you, my 
boy, but I've known you from a child, 
and I know you're true grit. I think, 
perhaps, if you broke it first to Miss 
Hyde it would be best. She's a steady, 
sensible girl that, and I have an idea 
would come out in an emergency like 
this. Good-bye, and use your own 
discretion as to how ; but, mind, it 
must be told. Here's the train." 

" Good-bye, and trust me to do my 
best, doctor," rejoined Phil ; "though, 
God knows, it's a terrible task you've 
set me." 

Arrived at Bunbury, Dr. Ingleby 
drove straight to the Hopbine, where 
he was cordially received by old Mar- 
linson. 

" Course I knew you'd come, doctor, 
and I dare say heard the awful news 
before you got here. It's dreadful to 
think of poor Lawyer Fossdyke being 
murdered at all, but that the infernal 
scoundrel should have the audacity to 
lure him to the Hopbine, of all places 
in the world, beats me. Ordered the 
best of everything in the house, too, 
and turned up his nose at my old 
port. I ought to have known he was 
no fit company for the Hopbine by 
that." 

" Never mind that just now, Mar- 
tinson. I want to take a last look at 
my old friend, and then I must hurry 
back to Baumborough. Remember, 
that those near and dear to him have 
to hear all about this, and it will be a 
dreadful blow to them. Poor Mrs. 
Fossdyke was wonderfully attached to 
her husband, and will feel it bitterly." 

" Come this way, sir. I allow no 
one into the room, according .with Mr. 
Thresher's orders. He lays a good 
deal of stress on the London men 
whom he expects down seeing it ex- 
actly as he found it," and, taking a 
candle, Marlinson led the way. 

The room was just as it had been 
when first burst into, with the exception 
that the dead man had been lifted 
from the floor, laid reverently upon 
the bed, and covered with a sheet. 
Dr. Ingleby drew back the cloth from 
over the face, and gazed sadly upon 
the features of his unfortunate friend, 
placed his fingers mechanically on 
the heart, and then peered down upon 
the small, clear cut through which a 
man's life had welled. He knew John 



Fossdyke was dead ; it was evident to 

his practised eye that that stab had 
killed him. What motive could John 
Fossdyke's murderer have had ? 

" From what I'm told, you knew 
Mr. Fossdyke well, and can perhaps, 
therefore, clear up at once the first 
important fact in the case, Dr. Ingle- 
by," said a voice at his elbow, which 
made him start, and then he became 
aware of two other figures in the room, 
and turned sharply to survey them. 
One he at once recognised as Inspec- 
tor Thresher, chief of the Bunbury 
police force — the other, and it was he 
that had spoken, was a little wiry, 
grizzle-haired man, clean shaved, and 
dressed in most ordinary fashion, with 
a pair of restless, bright hazel eyes, that 
seemed wandering in all directions. 

" I'm Silas Usher, Criminal Inves- 
tigation Department, Scotland Yard," 
continued the little grey man, "and 
I'm in charge of this murder. I have 
heard the rough particulars from my 
friend, Inspector Thresher, and must 
be back in town by the night train. 
I'm always open about what I'm driv- 
ing at ; odd that you'll say for a man 
of my profession, but I find nothing 
pays better. I tell people I want to 
know the way to Ramsgate say, having 
told them who I am. Well, this is 
the result — those who are straight 
give me all the information they can ; 
those who are not imagine at once I 
want to go to Margate, and are, there- 
fore, profuse also in their information 
with regard to the road to Ramsgate." 

It is superfluous to observe that 
Sergeant Silas Usher by no means 
conducted his inquiries with this prim- 
itive simplicity. He was indeed one 
of the most astute officers in the force, 
having strongly pronounced that first 
great faculty of the detective police- 
man, rapid inductive reasoning. 

"And what, Mr. Usher, is the 
question you wish to ask me ? " in- 
quired Dr. Ingleby. 

"This, sir. I want you to see the 
dagger with which Mr. Fossdyke 
was slain, and tell me whether you 
recognise it as his." 

" You see, sometimes," added Mr. 
Usher, " when we are called in this 
way the first thing to ascertain is 
whether there has been a murder com- 
mitted at all. Lots of times when 



SERGEANT SILAS USHER 



67 



people are missing, their friends rush 
to the conclusion they are murdered, 
and it very soon turns out they are 
all alive, though not doing exactly 
what they ought. In a case like this 
my experience tells me the first cry 
will be murder naturally ; but there is 
a great probability of its being suicide. 
Still, what looks like clearing that 
question up is the weapon that caused 
death. I have seen it down at 
Thresher's place, and it is peculiar. I 
don't mean to say there never was 
another like it, but they would be 
decidedly rarely met with. Some of 
Mr. Fossdyke's relatives and friends 
must know if he owned such a dagger. 
If he did it may be fairly presumed a 
case of suicide ; if, on the other hand, 
no one ever saw such a weapon in his 
possession, it is fair to argue the other 
way, and presume it is murder, and 
the peculiarity of the weapon is a 
strong clue to the ultimate finding of 
the murderer." 

" Well, I've not seen it yet," re- 
joined Dr. Ingleby. 

" I know, sir," interrupted Mr. 
Usher; "but you will just look in at 
Thresher's place on the way to the 
train. Can't delay you two minutes, 
mere question whether you recognise 
that dagger as the property of the 
deceased or not. Of course your 
answer in the negative would not be 
final, but if some of his friends 
recognise it I should very much doubt 
there being any murder at all about 
the business." 

Once more did Dr. Ingleby turn 
and look sorrowfully at the features 
of his energetic and somewhat com- 
bative friend, whose determination 
and fluent tongue would never trouble 
men more ; then, gently drawing the 
sheet over the face, he announced 
himself in readiness to accompany 
Sergeant Usher to the police office. 
Upon being shown the dagger he at 
once said that he had never seen it 
before. He had been very intimate 
with the deceased, and had been a 
constant visitor to his house, but he 
had never set eyes upon the weapon 
in question. He was quite sure if he 
had ever seen it he couldn't have 
forgotten it. 

"This Mr. Foxborough, may I ask if 
you ever saw or heard of him ? " 



" I not only never saw him, but 
have no recollection of ever hearing 
such a name in my life," replied Dr. 
Ingleby; "but it is fair to tell you 
that Mr. Fossdyke had business 
connections with many people of 
whom neither his family nor friends 
knew anything. He was a man 
reticent in business matters, as men 
of his profession are bound to be. 
Nobody employs a gabbling solici- 
tor." 

" Thank you, sir ; that's all I want 
to know at present. Our people, 
whom I have informed by telegraph, 
will, what we call, reckon up all the 
Foxboroughs in London in the next 
forty-eight hours. I am taking up a 
tolerably accurate verbal picture of 
the one who was here, but the key to 
the whole thing, I fancy, is not to be 
found in Bunbury." 

" Not to be found here," ejaculated 
Inspector Thesher ; "why, you have 
got witnesses to identify, and all the 
rest, in the town. You've only got to 
find the man." 

"That's just it, my good friend, 
and the clue to his whereabouts don't 
seem to be in Bunbury." 

Dr. Ingleby looked hard at the 
speaker as he said quietly — 

" I should have thought you would 
have traced him from this place most 
readily." 

" Perhaps you are right," replied 
Sergeant Usher ; " but I'm a pig- 
headed sort of man, who can only 
reckon up matters my own way. 
But it's time I was off to the station, 
and you also, sir." 

The two accordingly made their 
way to the railway, and after the two 
policemen had seen Dr. Ingleby off 
to Baumborough, Inspector Thresher 
bade farewell to his professional 
brother as the up-train for London 
ran into the station. 

" You'll be down again for the 
inquest, of course?" remarked Thresh- 
er as he shook hands. 

" Yes ; but I tell you candidly I 
don't think we shall make much out 
of that ; but there's no saying. Good- 
bye." 



68 



AT FAULT 



CHAPTER XIII 

MR. TOTTERDELL'S EXCITEMENT 

It was with a heavy heart that Phil 
Soames made thebest of his way to Dyke 
in accordance with his promise to 
Dr. Ingleby. He was sincerely sorry 
for John Fossdyke, whom he had known 
before he, Phil, emerged from his teens 
and had always liked. There had been 
something attractive to a young fellow 
in the Town Clerk's restless energy and 
go ; in the keen way in which he 
threw himself into the promotion of 
all amusement for Baumborough. 
He had been the heart and soul 
at one time of that very cricket 
club of which Phil Soames was now 
the captain ; not that Mr. Fossdyke 
had ever played, but he had been a 
first-rate secretary, arranged matches 
etc., and really made the Club ; 
had put them on a sound financial 
footing, and raised their cricketing 
status fifty per cent, in the county. 
Then, again, this was a terrible story 
to have to tell a wife ; and Phil 
Soames, who knew the menage well 
and was a shrewd observer, believed 
that though the Fossdykes might tiff 
a bit, the lady really loved her hus- 
band at bottom. However, as Dr. 
Ingleby had said, the story had to be 
told, and that quickly, and Phil 
Soames was not of the sort that 
blench when called on to face awkward 
work. 

He rang the bell and looked at 
his watch when he arrived at Dyke. 
It was a little awkward, it was just 
about the time the ladies would be 
adjusting their toilettes for dinner. 
When the door opened, he said at 
once to the man-servant who opened 
it, " I must see Miss Hyde at once, 
Robert. I'll step into the study and 
wait there. Tell Miss Hyde I am here, 
if you can see her alone, but say a 
person from Baumborough wants to see 
her if you can't. Not a word to 
any one else. I am the bearer of 
bad news, which you'll all know in 
half an hour." 

Marvelling greatly, Robert left to 
do his errand, and found Miss Hyde 
and Mrs. Fossdyke just leaving the 
drawing-room to dress. Bessie, on 
learning the message, followed him at 
once ; and Mrs. Fossdyke, supposing 



that the person from Baumborough 
was a tradesman of some sort, went 
upstairs to her room. 

" Philip ! " exclaimed Miss Hyde, 
as she entered the study, even before 
the confidential Robert was out of 
hearing, so astounded was she at the 
appearance of Mr. Soames in this 
fashion, " What does this mean?" 

" Sit down, please," he replied after 
he had shaken hands. " Yes, in that 
big chair will be best. I have come 
over to break some terrible tidings 
to you. Mr. Fossdyke has met with 
a very severe accident." 

"On the railway ? " asked the girl, 
leaning forward as the colour died 
out of her cheeks. "Is it — is it dan- 
gerous ? " 

" Yes, Bessie, I am very much 
afraid fatal," he replied gently. " Of 
course there is hope while there is 
life," and then he dropped his eyes, 
unable longer to confront the eager, 
frightened gaze that met his own. 

" There is no hope, Philip — none. 
I can read it in your face— he is dead 
or dying. Which ? tell me which, in 
pity's name." 

" Dead," he rejoined in a low 
voice. 

" It is very terrible," she murmured ; 
" what will his poor wife do ? She 
loved him, Philip, indeed she did, 
though they might not seem to quite 
hit it off at times. And, oh, how good 
they have both been to me," and Bessie 
bowed her head, and sobbed audibly. 

Soames let the girl's tears have full 
play ; he felt that his task was but as 
yet only half accomplished, and felt 
dreadfully nervous about the telling 
how John Fossdyke really came to 
his end. 

" I am better now," she said at 
length ; "tell me where it happened, 
and how? Of course I must break 
this to Mrs. Fossdyke, and she will 
naturally desire to know all par- 
ticulars.'' 

" Can you be very brave, Bessie? Can 
you bear to hear that there is some- 
thing peculiarly sad about Mr. Foss- 
dyke's death? It was no railway ac- 
cident." 

The girl's eyes dilated as she 
stared in expectant bewilderment at 
Soames. 

'' Nerve yourself," he continued ; 



MR. TOTTERDELL S EXCITEMENT 



b 9 



" remember we must look 10 you to 
support and comfort Mrs. Fossdyke 
under her trial." 

" 1 understand," she said faintly, 
" go on, please, quick." 

" Mr. Fossdyke has been murdered," 
rejoined Soames in slow, measured 
tones ; " stabbed to the heart in his 
bed at Bunbury." 

Bessie threw up her hands before 
her face as if blinded. 

" Murdered," she said, in a low 
voice. " Good heavens ! have they 
any suspicions as to who is the assas- 
sin, and what his motive ? " 

" His motive ! No ; but there is 
strong presumption that a Mr Fox- 
borough, who invited him •'' 

" Oh, my God ! " exclaimed the girl, 
as she fell back in her chair, blanched 
and all but senseless. She looked so 
like swooning that Phil was about to 
ring for assistance, when a rapid ges- 
ture of her hand stayed him. 

" It only wanted this," she mur- 
mured, and then she apparently be- 
came unconscious. 

For a second or two Soames once 
more fingered the bell, then glancing 
round the room he rushed at a vase 
of flowers ; quick as thought the 
blossoms lay scattered on the car- 
pet, and half of the water in which 
they had stood was dashed into the 
fainting girl's face ; then soaking 
his handkerchief in the remainder 
he proceeded to daub her temples 
after the only conventional fashion 
understood by male creatures. With 
a quick gasp or two she came 
round in a few minutes. 

" Keep quiet, and don't try to talk 
yet," said Phil authoritatively. " Shall 
I ring, or would you rather I did 
not ? " 

A slight but emphatic shake of 
the head answered the question. 

That the news of John Fossdyke's 
murder should upset Miss Hyde was 
only natural. She was a plucky girl 
and had fought bravely against the 
shock to her nerves, no doubt ; but 
what puzzled Phil Soames was her 
ejaculation just before she swooned 
— " It only wanted this ! " What 
could she mean ? It must be re- 
membered that the mystery which 
she declared rendered her marriage 
with him impossible was ever in 



the young man's mind. Did her 
exclamation in any way relate to 
that ? He was still pondering on 
this when Bessie, having in some 
measure recovered herself, said : " Of 
course I must tell Mrs. Fossdyke ; 
and now, Philip, I think you had 
better go. It will be a terrible night 
for us both ; and when you get back 
to Baumborough tell Dr. Ingleby 
to look in about ten or so, if he 
can." 

" Certainly I will, but he has gone 
over to Bunbury, and can scarcely 
be back so soon as that. I shall 
meet him at the station, and feel 
sure he means coming out before he 
goes to bed. It was he who sent 
me here to break it." 

" He's always so thoughtful," re- 
plied Bessie, and as she spoke the 
door opened, and in came Mrs. Foss- 
dyke. 

" Well, upon my word," she ex- 
claimed, laughing. " How do you 
do, Mr. Soames ? and so, Bessie, 
this is the person from Baumborough ; 
really, Philip, I could never have 
believed in your obtaining entrance 
into my house under such remark- 
ably false colours. What am I to 
think ? Explain, young people, explain. 
Am I to ask him to dinner, Bessie, 
or not?" 

It was so evident to the pair that, 
far from having the slightest inkling 
of the truth, Mrs. Fossdyke merely sus- 
pected them of having come to the 
understanding which she had set her 
heart upon, that they both looked so 
distressed the good lady could not but 
notice it. 

" What is the matter with you 
both ? Have you been quarrelling ? 
What is it ? You both look as if 
you had come to infinite grief." 

To hear the poor woman thus 
jesting at what was in store for 
her was more than Phil Soames 
£ould bear. "No dinner to-night, 
thanks, Mrs. Fossdyke ; good-night. 
Good-night, Bessie — Miss Hyde, I 
mean. God bless you," and with 
this somewhat incoherent speech he 
took his departure. 

No man could have been more curi- 
ously moved by the death of a fellow- 
creature than was Mr. Totterdell when 
he first heard of the murder of John 



7o 



AT FAULT 



Fossdyke. He was a fussy, garrulous, 
and inquisitive old man, and had 
lately proved himself a rancorous 
old man to boot with regard to 
the luckless Town Clerk. He had 
fiercely resented the being literally 
turned out of Dyke, but to do him 
justice his enmity was not of that 
unsparing, malignant kind that re- 
fused to be buried in the grave. 
He was unfeignedly sorry for the 
past, and deeply regretted that ever 
he should have moved for an inquisi- 
tion into the financial affairs of the 
town. He had lamented before that 
his wrath had moved him to that 
step ; it was subject of still bitterer 
lamentation now. But as the details 
of the murder reached Baumborough, 
there stole across Mr. Totterdell a 
little glow of satisfaction that he 
had in his writing-table drawer that 
bill of the Syringa Music Hall, and 
was not only one of those who had 
actually held converse with the mur- 
derer, but was able to point out to 
the police where he might be found. 
Conscious of possessing this informa- 
tion, Mr. Totterdell positively swelled 
with importance. To a man of his 
disposition being the repository of 
the clue to a great crime was delicious. 
He (Totterdell) at all events now 
must come prominently before the 
public. His name would be in all 
the papers, and to one of his incal- 
culable vanity this went for a good 
deal. To be pointed out as the Mr. 
Totterdell who led to the solution 
of the great Bunbury murder was 
fame. Questionable that perhaps, 
but for the time being it would un- 
doubtedly be notoriety, a substitute 
that amply suffices most people in these 
days. Then Mr. Totterdell remem- 
bered how he had actually pointed 
out John Fossdyke to his supposed 
murderer, and began to suffer agonies 
of remorse ; but again it occurred to 
him that it was the stranger who 
had demanded who the Town Clerk 
might be, and that had he refused the 
required information his interlocutor 
would have experienced no difficulty 
in obtaining it from some one else ; 
so he became more tranquil on this 
point. But to whom to disburden 
himself of the mighty secret within his 
breast troubled him much. Another 



thing, too, which gave a singular titil- 
lation both to Mr. Totterdell's nerves 
and vanity, was the idea that he had 
sat next a veritable murderer at the 
theatre only twenty-four hours before 
he committed his crime. Of this he 
made no secret ; indeed, dilated on 
the subject all over Baumborough. 
Mr. Totterdell never tired of describ- 
ing the stranger nor improvising the 
discourse that took place between 
them, and that conversation so 
lengthened in proportion to the 
number of times that Mr. Totter- 
dell recapitulated the story, that it 
appeared impossible that either he 
or the stranger could have heard any- 
thing of the play. 

Now there was one singular fact 
about all this easily accounted for if 
you bear in mind Mr. Totterdell's 
prevailing characteristics, insatiable 
curiosity combined, remember, with 
incalculable vanity, prompting him to 
obtain notoriety at all hazards. The 
result was that, freely as he talked of 
having met him in front of the house, 
he was perfectly mute about having 
come across Mr. Foxbotough behind 
the scenes. He could, he thought, 
give all the information concerning 
the stranger the police could possibly 
require, and was jealous that any one 
else should intrude themselves on his 
platform. He proposed to pose as 
the main witness in the great Bunbury 
murder case — a mere matter of no- 
toriety ! Quite so, but men have 
risked their lives for nothing else time 
out of mind, notably in the year of 
grace 1882 concerning crossing the 
Channel in balloons. 

When Dr. Ingleby, having returned 
from Bunbury, got out to Dyke, he 
found that he was most decidedly 
wanted. His old friend, Mrs. Foss- 
dyke, was perfectly stunned by the 
news, and past anything but making 
one wild wail of remorse for what she 
was pleased to term her late unvvifely 
behaviour. She reproached herself 
bitterly about her last quarrel with her 
husband, and wept piteously over 
some misty idea that she had in some 
sort contributed to the catastrophe. 
But what did surprise Dr. Ingleby was 
the excessive prostration of Miss 
Hyde. The girl struggled bravely 
against it, but her unutterable woe 



MR. TOTTERDELVS EXCITEMENT 



71 



was as unmistakable as it was diffi- 
cult to account for. Granted she had 
lost a very dear friend, still it was 
hard to understand a tolerably self- 
contained young lady like Miss Hyde 
being so completely upset by it. She 
did her best — she struggled hard to 
console and comfort poor Mrs. Foss- 
dyke, but Dr. Ingleby was fain to 
confess that she seemed more in need 
of comforting herself. A case this in 
which there was little to be done for 
either sufferer. Words of consolation 
at such times seem commonplace, and 
medical aid is superfluous. 

But the next day Dr. Ingleby was 
astonished by the apparition of Ser- 
jeant Silas Usher in his surgery — 
that he entered unannounced it is 
almost unnecessary to say. Silas 
Usher usually turned up without any 
official announcement. He had a 
way of appearing at people's sides in 
a stealthy, ghost-like fashion positively 
appalling, and his very name caused 
terror to the tip-top professors of the 
art of burglary. It was related how 
one of the great artists in that line 
had been utterly paralysed in his last 
exploit by having whispered into his 
ears as he was clearing out a countess's 
jewel-box, and greedily gloating over 
a diamond bracelet, — 

"Very pretty, Bill Simmonds, ain't 
it? but it won't fit you anything like as 
well as these," and before the as- 
tonished robber could collect his 
faculties the handcuffs snapped round 
his wrists, and his retirement from a 
world he had for some time adorned 
was an accomplished fact. 

" I have just run down, sir, to make 
a few inquiries in Baumborough, and 
you're the man I want in the first 
instance. I don't want to intrude on 
the family at Dyke, of course, but it is 
essential I should get answers from 
them to these two questions : Did they 
ever know a Mr. Foxborough, or hear 
of him? and did they ever see this in 
Mr. Fossdyke's possession?" and 
Sergeant Usher produced the fatal 
weapon which had been found in John 
Fossdyke's breast. 

A slight shiver ran through Dr. 
Ingleby's frame, not at the sight of the 
weapon, for his medical training had 
steeled his nerves to all that sort of 
thing, but he did think it would be a 



gruesome task to show that ghastly 
toy to the mourners at Dyke. 

" Now don't you run away, doctor, 
with the idea that I'm a man of no 
feeling," exclaimed the sergeant, who 
saw at a glance what was passing 
through Dr. Ingleby's mind. " No- 
body understands the susceptibilities 
more than I do, and, bless you, no- 
body humours them more. Now 
these are important questions, and 
answers to 'em quite invaluable. 
But, of course, you'll introduce this," 
he continued, tapping the dagger, " as 
a paper knife found in a half-cut 
novel which Mr. Foxborough left in- 
advertently behind him. It is to 
spare all unpleasantness I come to 
you. Introduce me as what seems 
best to yourself, but you shall make 
the inquiries. I only want to be 
present when they are made, but I 
think you had best admit at once I'm 
a police agent. As I told you before, 
I'm in charge of this murder, and it's 
a matter of professional pride to bring 
it home to some one." 

" You seem pretty indifferent whom 
you hang," rejoined Dr. Ingleby 
sharply. 

" Nothing of the kind, sir," replied 
Sergeant Usher, " but it is a sort of 
reproach to my professional reputa- 
tion not to pick up the perpetrator of 
a big crime like this. More especially 
because it seems so simple. Who but 
Mr. Foxborough could have com- 
mitted this murder ? I told you, sir, 
I am always candid myself on prin- 
ciple, but we must have the links in 
the chain complete, and that is the 
reason I am compelled to disturb the 
ladies at Dyke, almost in the first 
agonies of their grief." 

" To-morrow, I might, Sergeant 
Usher, but as the medical adviser of 
the family, I emphatically say Mrs. 
Fossdyke and Miss Hyde are too 
thoroughly crushed by this blow for 
you to see them to-day. There are 
probably one or two more points you 
would like to question them over, and 
on the whole you will benefit by the 
delay." 

Silas Usher mused for a little, and 
then said, " Well, it may be so. I, of 
course, am very anxious to know what 
induced Mr. Fossdyke to go over to 
Bunbury. We know Foxborough 



72 



AT FAULT 



came here on Monday night. He 
probably met the deceased and asked 
him to dine, which, from motives we 
have as yet no clue to, Mr. Fossdyke 
accepted ; but from the witness at the 
Hopbine, it does not appear to have 
been simply a dinner between two 
old friends. If the invitation was 
given verbally it is very likely that 
some one heard it given. At all 
events there must be people in Baum- 
borough who noticed this stranger. 
If, which may be possible, the man 
wrote, there's a chance that the ladies 
at Dyke know something about it, 
and that the letter is not as yet 
destroyed. You see, doctor, if you 
can get hold of a man's handwriting — 
and this Foxborough was undoubtedly 
an educated man — or if you can get 
hold of an accurate description of 
him, you are pretty much upon his 
track." 

" All of which makes it quite clear 
to me that you won't altogether waste 
a day in Baumborough, Sergeant 
Usher. At all events I'll not sanction 
you going out to Dyke to-day." 

" It may be you're right, sir," re- 
joined the detective. " Anyhow, it 
seems I have got to pass the day here, 
and therefore I must just make the 
best of it. I'll call in to-morrow, 
doctor, to see what you can do for me. 
Good morning." 

That Sergeant Usher went about 
seeking information would not at all 
describe that worthy's proceedings ; he 
simply pervaded the town, he had 
something to say to every one, and it 
was highly creditable to his versatility 
and universal knowledge that the 
people with whom he conversed differed 
largely about the little grey man's call- 
ing. The ostler at the King's Arms, 
where Mr. Usher was located, had no 
doubt whatever that he was somehow 
connected with horses. At the prin- 
cipal stationer's they put him down as 
having something to do with theatri- 
cals, while other people differed as to 
whether it was corn or cattle the little 
gentleman at the King's Arms had 
come down to buy. But that in the 
course of three or four hours' gossip- 
ing with everybody he came across, 
Sergeant Usher had arrived at the 
fact that Mr. Foxborough had sat 
next Mr. Totterdell in the stalls upon 



the opening night of the theatre, and 
that nobody in Baumborough knew so 
much about the whole affair as that 
gentleman, may easily be conceived. 
Clearly Mr. Totterdell was the man 
the sergeant wanted, and to ascertain 
where Mr. Totterdell lived was, of 
course, easy. Who he was had been 
fully explained also — his connection 
with Mrs. Fossdyke, his quarrel with 
her husband, etc. All such local 
gossip is easily picked up in an in- 
credibly short time in a country town 
by such a practised hand as Sergeant 
Usher ; and further the detective had 
got a very fair inkling of what manner 
of man Mr. Totterdell was. 

The fussy Town Councillor dwelt in 
a prim-looking house standing in an 
equally prim- looking garden, situated 
in the outskirts ot the town, and 
thither towards the afternoon Ser- 
geant Usher made his way. He was 
in exceeding good humour with him- 
self, for he considered he had done a 
very fair morning's work, although 
most of his informants had been fain 
to admit they had not noticed the 
stranger themselves ; while even those 
that professed to have remarked him 
were so vague and vacillating in their 
description that the shrewd Sergeant 
Usher speedily came to the con- 
clusion that " they thought they'd 
seen him," was about what their tes- 
timony really amounted to, but they 
were all clear and confident that 
Mr. Totterdell had conversed with the 
stranger, and could describe his per- 
sonal appearance, manner, etc. ; in- 
deed, it was he who had been asked 
to point out Mr. Fossdyke by this 
Mr. Foxborough. 

Mr. Totterdell was at home, and 
the sergeant was at once shown 
into his presence. " Mr. Silas 
Usher," he repeated, reading the 
name written on an envelope, which 
had been sent in to him. " May I ask 
what your business is with me?" 

" I thought maybe, sir, the name 
might have told you. Silas Usher is 
pretty well known at Scotland Yard, 
and you might have come across the 
name in biggish murder cases before 
now." 

" Of course, of course," exclaimed 
Mr. Totterdell, wriggling in his chair, 
after his custom, when excited about 



MR. TOTTER DELL'S EXCITEMENT 



73 



anything. " Pray sit down, Mr. 
Usher." 

He had been turning over in his 
mind with whom he was to disburden 
himself of the mighty secret hidden in 
his breast, and here was the very man 
he wanted come to his door. 

"I have every reason to believe, 
Mr. Totterdell, that you can give nie 
some very important information, and 
as this murder is put in my charge, 1 
lome to learn all you have to tell me 
concerning it." 

"And you couldn't have come to 
any one in Baumborough who can tell 
you half so much about it. 1 was an 
intimate friend of the poor fellow 
that's gone, you know, godfather to 
his wife and all that sort of thing, and 
though he behaved very badly and 
ungratefully to me at last, 1 bore him 
no malice." 

What poor John Fossdyke had to 
be gratelul about was not quite so 
clear. 

" Dear me," continued the old im- 
postor, " I little thought when I slaved 
so to get up the Baumborough 
Theatre that I was, so to speak, 
digging John Fossdyke's grave, but 
that was his fault ; he never was open 
with any one. If he had only been 
candid, Mr. Usher; if he had only 
been candid " 

" Ah ! Mr. Totterdell, then he 
never mentioned Foxborough's name 
to you ? " 

" No, nor to any one else, or I must 
have heard of it. I hear everything 
that goes on in Baumborough." 

"And you actually sat next this 
man in the theatre on Monday night," 
interposed the sergeant rather hur- 
riedly, for he already saw that the 
newly-elected Town Councillor was 
not one of those who narrate their 
story briefly. 

" That was just what I was going 
to tell you," rejoined Mr. Totterdell 
testily, "o^ly you interrupted me. 
Yes, I sat near the miscreant at the 
theatre ; a dark-complexioned man, 
dressed in evening clothes, as unlike 
a murderer as could be," and the old 
gentleman paused, and looked at the 
sergeant as much as to say, " What 
do you think of that ?" 

Mr. Usher «oui:ii>.,i r fd no opinion ; 
his profciiinnal knowledge told him 



that men of all classes had taken 
their fellows' lives at times. 

"Well," continued Mr. Totterdell, 
"the villain was very affable. Said 
he was in the theatrical line himself. 
He asked who two or three people 
were, amongst others John Foss- 
dyke." 

"Give any reason?" interposed 
the sergeant, in a curt rat-trap sort 
of way that made the "Id gentleman 
start. 

" Yes, he said he thought he had 
met him somewhere, had been at 
school with him, perhaps, but he 
didn't seem to recognise the name at 
all. He thought 1 said Mossdyke, 
and when I repeated Fossdyke, 
asked me to spell it, which I did. 
Then he asked me if Miss Hyde was 
his daughter, and I told him no, that 
she was one of our great mysteries, 
that no one knew exactly who she 
was. We don't, you know ; it's very 
curious that, Mr. Usher. Baumbor- 
ough cannot get at who she is ex- 
actly." 

" And, of course, sir, you had no 
idea of what this stranger's name 
was ? " 

"Well, 1 had and I hadn't. It so 
happens I am in possession of a sing- 
ular piece of evidence, which, though 
it told nothing then, is valuable now, 
as it tells you where to find James 
Foxborough." 

"James!" exclaimed the sergeant. 
" You've got at his Christian name 
then, Mr. Totterdell?" 

"Yes," exclaimed the old gentleman 
with an asthmatic chuckle, as he got 
out of his chair, and went across to 
the writing-table. "When," he con- 
tinued, as he opened a drawer, " the 
stranger got up to leave he pulled 
a silk muffler out of his pocket to 
put round his throat, and as he did so 
he dropped this," and Mr. Totterdell 
held up the music-hall bill he had 
picked up in the theatre. " Look at it." 

" Syringa Music Hall ! Yes, I 
know the place well ; but any one 
might go there ; this don't tell us 
much. Ha ! Lessee, Mr. James 
Foxborough. Yes, stupid of me not 
to remember it before. I know all 
about it now. Wife, handsome 
woman, sings rather well. I don't 
think I ever saw Foxborough. Can't 



?4 



AT FAULT 



hive done. I never forget any one 
I've once seen. You can keep that, 
Mr. Totterdell, it's a valuable clue, 
but excuse my observing it's no 
evidence. It is open to any one to 
have a Syringa bill in his coat- 
pocket." 

The old gentleman gasped with 
indignation. He had held that bill 
to be a most damning piece of testi- 
mony. 

" You see," continued the sergeant, 
who saw what was passing through 
Mr. Totterdell's mind, "beyond that 
it recalled to my mind that James 
Foxborough is lessee of the Syringa, 
a fact some of our people in town are 
sure to have remembered, that bill 
tells us nothing. I've no doubt a 
man calling himself Foxborough sat 
next you in the stalls on Monday 
night, and when we apprehend James 
Foxborough you will know at a glance 
whether that's the man." 

" Undoubtedly," returned Mr. Tot- 
terdell, somewhat reviving as it 
dawned upon him that after all he was 
destined to play the role of a leading 
witness. 

"Well, sir, I don't think I need 
trespass any longer on your valuable 
time. I'm a candid man myself, Mr. 
Totterdell, and I have no doubt that 
— thanks to the valuable clue you 
have placed in my hands-^we shall 
soon know all about James Fox- 
borough, and where to find him when 
we want him. Good-day, sir." 

" If his time is valuable he loses a 
mint of money per annum," muttered 
Sergeant Usher, as he walked away. 
" Such a long-winded old chump at 
telling a story one don't often see, 
thank goodness. Now, if this is 
James Foxborough of the Syringa, 
what on earth could be his quarrel 
with Mr. Fossdyke ? That is a thing 
has to be got at in some sort. Se- 
condly, it all looks too plain sailing. 
Men don't take rooms at hotels in 
the country in their own name, 
ask their enemy to dinner, murder 
him, and return quietly to town by 
the first train in the morning ; and 
yet that's what this comes to. Out- 
side my experience that is a long 
way. No ; it looks so simple that I'd 
bet it turns out a complicated case. 
I suppose I'd best go out to Dyke 



to-morrow, if the doctor will let me, 
and ask the ladies two or three 
questions, though I don't suppose 
much will come of it." 

The next morning Serjeant Usher 
wended his way to Dr. Ingleby's to 
learn if it was possible for him to ask 
those two or three questions of Mrs. 
Fossdyke and Miss Hyde that he was 
so anxious to put. 

" I have been out to see them 
already, and have arranged that, 
painful though it be, it shall be done. 
But I must manage this business in 
my own way. The interview must be 
as brief as you can possibly make it. 
The questions will have to be put by 
me, and I have guaranteed you shall 
not open your lips, although you are 
to be present. They understand who 
you are, and that they are answering 
my questions for your benefit." 

At first Sergeant Usher lookedsome- 
what disappointed ; then, brighten- 
ing up a bit, said, " It won't take five 
minutes, doctor. There are only 
three questions, but I want as distinct 
answers to them as possible, please. 
I had better write them down." 

" Do, while I order the trap. 
There are writing things." 

A few minutes later and Dr. 
Ingleby and the sergeant were driving 
towards Dyke. On their arrival they 
were at once shown into the drawing- 
room, where the two ladies were 
waiting to receive them. They wel- 
comed Dr. Ingleby with a faint smile, 
and acknowledged Sergeant Usher's 
bow with a slight bend of the head. 

" My dear Mrs. Fossdyke, we 
sha'n't worry you for more than a 
few minutes, but in the interests of 
justice I am going to ask you three 
questions. First, did you ever see this 
fanciful toy before ? " and he exhibited 
the weapon that had bereft John 
Fossdyke of life. 

A decided negative from both 
ladies. 

"Secondly, did your husband to 
your knowledge know anything of a 
Mr. Foxborough ? " 

" I never heard of such a person," 
replied Mrs. Fossdyke briefly. 

" I never knew a Mr. Foxborough," 
faltered Miss Hyde with visible 
emotion. 

"Lastly, are you aware what in- 



CLUB GOSSIP 



75 



duced your husband to go over to 
Bunbury on Tuesday ?" 

" Certainly," replied Mrs. Fossdyke, 
"he went inconsequence of a letter 
which he received by the morning 
post, and by which he was evidently 
much put out. We both noticed it, 
Bessie, did we not ?" 

Miss Hyde bent her head in token 
of assent. 

" So much so," continued Mrs. 
Fossdyke, " that I asked him if he 
was ill, and afterwards urged him not 
to stay the night at Bunbury, but 
come home to dinner. Oh, why, 
why did he not follow my advice ? " 
and the good lady's tears flowed 
afresh. 

" There, there, my dear friend," 
said the doctor soothingly, "we need 
trouble you no more. Good-bye for 
the present — good-bye, Miss Hyde. 
I shall be up again in the evening." 

Sergeant Usher had already glided 
noiselessly out of the room in accord- 
ance with his covenant. 

" Well," said the doctor, as he 
joined him in the hall, " I trust you 
have learnt all you want to know." 

" Not quite," rejoined Sergeant 
Usher. " 1 want to know when Miss 
Hyde heard of Mr. Foxborough." 

" Why, she said she never had." 

" Excuse me, she said she had 
never seen him, and I believe her ; 
but from the way she said it I have a 
strong idea she's heard of him." 

" That idea never would have 
entered my head." 

" I dare say not, doctor. You're 
not accustomed to weigh people's 
words as I am," replied Sergeant 
Usher as they got into the trap. 

" Were you satisfied with the result 
of your questions?" asked Dr. Ingleby, 
after a few moments, during which 
his companion seemed plunged in a 
brown study. 

" I'd give a hundred pounds for 
that letter," quoth Sergeant Usher 
moodily. 



CHAPTER XIV 



CLUB GOSSIP 



Herbert Morant, with his things 
neatly packed, including that valuable 
clock with an alarum, is casting a 
cursory eye round his rooms to make 
sure that nothing is forgotten, when 
there is a tap at the door, followed by 
the entrance of Mrs. Marriott with a 
telegram. It was from Phil Soames, 
and ran as follows : — " Sorry to put 
you off, but cannot receive you at 
present ; particulars by post." Mr. 
Morant read the telegram attentively, 
and then observed in a moralizing 
mood, " This is in accordance with 
the ordering of things by a perverse 
providence. No sooner do I plant 
the ladder that tends to fortune and 
turn to collect my effects than the 
malignant fairy whose glass the butler 
neglected to fill on the occasion of 
the festival of my christening, cuts 
up rough and kicks it down. Phil 
Soames," continued the ever sanguine 
Morant, " told me the ball was at my 
foot ; they always do tell you that, 
but what's the use when you're no 
good at the game, and don't under- 
stand a drop-kick. But old Phil, I 
know him so well, he'd have kicked 
off the ball, and I should have nothing 
to do but to run after it. Well, there's 
nothing for it but to await the arrival 
of the post, and in the meantime man 
must dine, and in the case of a fellow 
holding my 'high resolve' improve 
his mind afterwards, but whether that 
shall be done by the pursuit of whist, 
billiards, or dramatic representation, 
accident must determine." 

The next morning brought Mr. 
Morant a letter from Soames. It was 
as follows : — 

" Dear Herbert, — I am sorry to 
put you off, but the sad tragedy that 
has befallen Baumborough must be 
my excusfe. It has cast a temporary 
gloom over the whole town, and many 
of us who knew and loved John Foss- 
dyke feel it deeply. I have known 
him for the last fourteen years, from 
a boy, in short. He was a great 
friend of all my family, and we were 
inexpressibly grieved when the news 
came of his sad fate. As soon as we 



76 



AT FAULT 



have a little got over the shock you 
must come as arranged. For the 
present adieu. 

" Ever yours, 

" Philip Soames." 
" P.S.— The papers will give you 
all the details of the Bunbury murder, 
and spare me the pain of relating 
them." 

To say that Mr. Morant sat up in 
bed after reading this epistle would 
faintly characterize that young gentle- 
man's movements. He bounced out 
of bed and dashed into his sitting- 
room in search of the morning paper. 
A great murder always exercises a 
curious fascination upon the public, 
and that fascination is increased when 
we are connected, however faintly, 
with the crime. Mr. Morant's inti- 
mate friend on this occasion had been 
an intimate friend of the murdered 
man. But Herbert Morant is destined 
to find himself more intimately con- 
nected with the crime than that ; 
another minute and the columns of 
the Standard will disclose to him that 
the supposed murderer is the father 
of the girl he wishes to marry. 

Morant tore the paper open, glanced 
his eye rapidly over its pages, and for 
a little failed to discover what he 
sought. 

" Ha ! here it is," he exclaimed, as 
" Mysterious Murder at Bunbury " 
met his gaze, and he proceeded to 
peruse the account with no little in- 
terest. The murder had taken place 
on the Tuesday night presumably, 
though it was not till Wednesday 
afternoon that it had been discovered. 
It was now Friday morning, so the 
papers by this had obtained very 
detailed accounts of the crime, and 
the writer for the Standard had told 
his story in very dramatic fashion. 
But when after reading all the pre- 
liminaries with which we are already 
acquainted, Morant came to this pithy 
line, " On the Tuesday the friend of 
No. ii appeared in the person of 
John Fossdyke, a gentleman well 
known in Bunbury, and asked for 
Mr. Foxborough," he dropped the 
paper with a cry of horror ; then he 
took heart. Foxborough might not 
be a common name, but there were 
doubtless more Foxboroughs than one 



in the world. He picked the paper 
up and read on : the particulars of 
the murder were told clearly and 
faithfully ; but the last paragraph 
bore a later date than the remainder 
of the report, and had evidently been 
transmitted by telegraph. " I have 
just heard that evidence has been 
discovered this day in Baumborough 
which would appear to indicate that 
Mr. James Foxborough, the well- 
known lessee of the Syringa Music 
Hall, is the Mr. Foxborough who was 
staying at the Hopbine." 

Once more he dropped the paper 
and remained staring into vacancy. 
Was it possible that the man he 
knew, Nid's father, could have risen 
in the night and deliberately slain his 
guest ? It was too horrible. A more 
deliberate murder, apparently, had 
never been committed, and whatever 
the motive might have been, it was as 
yet perfectly unfathomable. Not the 
slightest suggestion was made by the 
correspondent of the paper as to the 
cause of the crime, and the more he 
thought of it the more bewildered 
Herbert Morant became. He read 
that account over and over again in 
the intervals of dressing ; the ghastly 
story had a weird fascination for him. 
He felt already growing upon him 
that morbid feeling, which makes all 
other things seem tame in comparison 
with the solution of a mystery of this 
kind. There are always a small pro- 
portion of imaginative people who are 
held spell-bound by the contemplation 
of a great crime. For the time being 
they think of nothing else, they read 
all the papers for fear the slightest 
detail should escape them, they build 
ingenious theories concerning the 
affair with more or less cleverness in 
proportion to their reasoning capa- 
bilities, and the proportion of edu- 
cated people who understand what is 
actually evidence is surprisingly small. 

His breakfast finished, Herbert 
Morant went down to his club. He 
wanted to see what the other papers 
might have to say about it ; to hear 
what mankind were saying about this 
Bunbury murder. The papers varied 
little in their accounts ; some of course 
were rather more meagre than others, 
but the leading journals were all pretty 
much in accordance with the story he 



CLUB GOSSIP 



11 



had at first read. With humanity it 
was different. Not only had men 
much to say and said it, but they 
improvised knowledge and enumer- 
ated theories which made poor Her- 
bert stand aghast. 

" Good Lord, sir, there's not much 
to be astonished at," said old Sir 
Cranbury Pye, a wicked old man, who 
had been about town for half-a-cen- 
tury or thereabouts. "Know all about 
that fellow Foxborough, real name 
Ikey Solomon, begun life in the prize 
ring, in the last days of that noble 
institution, clever light-weight, but 
couldn't be trusted, more often on the 
cross than the square. When that 
pillar of the constitution, the P.R., 
came to an end, Ikey started a silver 
hell at the East-end, got on, and 
went round the races, Brighton, Don- 
caster, you know, a little chicken hot, 
as well as cold chicken for supper ; 
found that game rather drying up, so 
went into the music-hall line, and 
started the Syringa. Good little chap, 
Ikey; don't know whether he stuck 
the other fellow, not proved yet any- 
how, but don't suppose Ikey would 
stick at murder, as a matter of busi- 
ness, any more than he would at 
crossing a fight or qiieering a flat": 
the whole of which farrago was lis- 
tened to and accepted by some of the 
younger members of "the Theatine" 
with much reverence and interest, Sir 
Cranbury having no more knowledge 
of James Foxborough than he had of 
the Emperor of China. 

" Never read a more conclusive 
case in my life," grunted old Major 
Borrobosh ; " poor fellow didn't want 
watch or money, of course. Papers 
of some kind ; deeds^ very likely. 
What did they quarrel about ? Some- 
thing of that sort, of course— this 
fellow Fossdyke, you see, wouldn't 
give 'em up. Foxborough goes at 
night to steal 'em, means having 'em 
somehow— the other fellow wakes. 
Foxborough gives him a dig in the 
ribs with his dagger, bones the papers, 
locks the door, and slopes next morn- 
ing, plain as a pikestaff. What say, 
hey? Premeditated, hey? No, no, 
not premeditated " 

" Look here, you fellows needn't go 
bellowing it about, you know," said 
Lacquers, " but I heard all about it 



from a fellow who has got a friend 
who corresponds with a chap down 
at Baumborough. The fellow Fox- 
borough had a daughter who went 
as nursery governess to John Foss- 
dyke. Fossdyke brought her to grief, 
and her father killed Fossdyke out of 
revenge. That's the real story of the 
affair." 

Pleasant all this for poor Herbert 
Morant, whose chivalrous disposition 
led him strongly to stand up for his 
new friends, but he hadn't knocked 
about London the last half-dozen 
years without acquiring some know- 
ledge of the world, and that warned 
him the confronting of the club gossip 
was like tilting at windmills in these 
days. Even in the old duelling days, 
and credited with wielding a deadly 
pistol, to curb the tongues of one of 
our great monachal caravansaries w?s 
hopeless. To attempt it in theie 
times would be ridiculous. Then the 
young man could but acknowledge to 
himself that he knew next to nothing 
of Foxborough. Of Mrs. Foxborough 
and Nid, yes, that was different ; but 
Herbert was aware that consummate 
scoundrels before now have been 
blessed with charming feminine be- 
longings. He felt very miserable as 
he walked out of the Theatine ; true, 
he believed very little of all these 
rumours he had heard, but there was 
no getting away from the fact that 
James Foxborough stood in imminent 
danger of being charged with murder, 
and, guilty or not guilty, that must 
occasion infinite agony to the girl he 
loved and her mother ; and Herbert 
was very fond of Mrs. Foxborough as 
well as Nid, although not quite in the 
same proportion. At last it occurred 
to Herbert he would walk out to 
Tapton Cottage, and inquire after its 
inmates — if possible, see them. It 
would show, at all events, both his 
sympathy and disbelief in the charge, 
and having come to this resolution 
he stepped out manfully, and without 
further vacillation, in the direction of 
Regent's Park. 

That the papers should so soon 
have got at the connection between 
James Foxborough and the Syringa 
was due chiefly to Mr. Totterdell. 
That garrulous old gentleman, having 
once parted with his hardly-kept 



7 8 



AT FAULT 



secret, thought it was as well to 
derive as much enjoyment as possible 
from it, and to that end confidentially 
showed the music-hall bill, and con- 
fided the story of how he came by it 
to every friend or acquaintance he 
came across. To Mr. Totterdell 
Baumborough owed the knowledge 
that the eminent Sergeant Usher had 
spent a day in their midst, and, 
according to Mr. Totterdell, the ser- 
geant had admitted that but for his 
assistance he would not yet have been 
on the track of the murderer. 

As he neared Tapton Cottage, 
Herbert Morant's feet imperceptibly 
lagged. It was not that he faltered 
for one moment in his purpose ; he 
longed to express his deep sympathy 
with them in their anguish, his utter 
disbelief in Mr. Foxborough being 
capable of the atrocious crime ascribed 
to him ; but what was he to say to 
those stricken women ? Words are 
so weak, and come so unreadily to 
our lips on these occasions of bitter 
sorrow, especially, perhaps, to men. 
However, if his pace had slackened, 
Morant had still held steadily on, and 
consequently was now within a few 
yards of the cottage. Suddenly his 
eye fell mechanically upon a shabbily- 
dressed man, who was lounging slowly 
along on the other side of the road, 
at a pace that implied, at all events, 
time was no object to him. Morant 
took little notice of him ; the man 
had merely attracted his gaze, not 
caught his attention, and all street- 
strollers, or, as the French would term 
them, flaneurs, know what that dis- 
tinction is. With a nervous hand 
Morant knocked, and the answering 
damsel he noticed was not the par- 
iour-maid who usually officiated in 
that respect. She was a servant he 
knew though, well enough, being Mrs. 
Foxborough's own maid ; and in 
answer to his inquiry she replied that 
her mistress was at home, but saw 
no one. The girl's face was grave 
enough, and she seemed to think 
there was no more to be said. 

" But, Jenny," pleaded Morant, " I 
think she would see me ; at all events, 
take my name in, like a good girl"; 
and mindful of sundry douceurs that 
had fallen to her lot since Mr. Morant 
had become a visitor at Tapton Cot- 



tage, she thought, well perhaps missis 
might make an exception in his favour ; 
at all events, if he would wait she 
would go and see. 

After some delay Jenny returned 
with the information that Mrs. Fox- 
borough would see Mr. Morant, and 
marshalled him to the drawing-room 
forthwith. 

Mrs. Foxborough came forward to 
greet him with head erect, and a 
dignity of manner he had never seen 
in her before. 

" You have heard, of course, Mr. 
Morant," she said, extending her 
hand, "of the shame that has come 
upon us ? Shame ! What am I say- 
ing ? Scandalous, scurrilous accusa- 
tion, that will bring more shame upon 
those that make it. But you have 
heard the infamous charge launched 
at my husband ? This it is to live in 
a free country, and enjoy the benefits 
of civilization ; where a ribald press 
can even state such slander as this 
without fear of pains and penalties." 

" Mrs. Foxborough, I only heard of 
this terrible charge this morning, and 
have come out at once to assure you 
of my utter disbelief in it, and to ask 
if there is any possible use I can be 
to you " 

" Ah ! I thought you would stand 
by us, Mr. Morant," she replied in 
slightly softened tones. "You have 
met my dear husband, and know that 
he was incapable of wilfully injuring 
any human being, much more of such 
a crime as this " 

" It is impossible, of course ; but 
where is he? Does he know of the 
horrible allegation against him. 
Surely he ought to be informed of it 
at once — to come forward and confute 
it at once," replied Morant hurriedly. 
" I don't go by what the papers say, 
but surely if he did ask this Mr. 
Fossdyke to dine with him at the 
Hopbine, he had best come forward 
and tell his plain story of the busi- 
ness." 

" I never heard him mention the 
name of Fossdyke in my life," replied 
Mrs. Foxborough, as she sank into a 
chair. 

" Then it is very possible that he is 
not the Mr. Foxborough who stayed 
at the Hopbine. Have you written to 
him ? " 



CLUB GOSSIP 



79 



" No, I cannot. I don't know 
exactly where he is. We never cor- 
respond much when he is away. The 
last letter I had from him was from a 
place called Slackford." 

" Great heavens ! Why, that is no 
great distance from Bunbury." 

" Indeed ! But what has that to do 
with it?" retorted Mrs. Foxborough, 
rearing her head proudly. 

" I don't know ; nothing, I sup- 
pose," rejoined Herbert, no little 
discomposed. 

" No ; it is perhaps a little unfor- 
tunate that I do not know his address, 
but it can matter very little. The 
papers must ere this have told him 
of the infamy they have dared to 
lay to his door, and I am expecting a 
telegram every moment to say that he 
is at Bunbury." 

"Ah, that would be most satisfac- 
tory. How does Nid bear it ?" 

"Well, poor child, it was impos- 
sible to keep it from her, or else I 
would have done ; but I reflected she 
was sure to learn it in the course of 
two or three days, and thought she'd 
best hear it from me. Indeed, it was 
quite a chance she did not see it in 
the paper before I did. She's terribly 
knocked down. There is very little 
of the Roman maiden about Nid, I 
fear," said Mrs. Foxborough, with a 
faint smile. 

" May I see her?" 

" No, I think not to-day. My 
doors are closed to every one, but I 
mean to make an exception in your 
favour, Mr. Morant. You have 
offered to serve me. I wonder 
whether you will undertake the 
first thing I ask you to do for me." 

" Certainly, Mrs. Foxborough," ex- 
claimed the young man eagerly. 

"Well, listen. The inquest com- 
menced to-day, and will, I am told, 
extend over to-morrow. Will you go 
down and bring me a faithful account 
of the proceedings?" and even proud 
and plucky Mrs. Foxborough's lips 
trembled a little as she spoke. 

" They have summoned Ellen. 
You saw she did not open the door 
for you. What they can want with 
her I have no idea. And more, Mr. 
Morant, we are a marked house. 
We are under surveillance. A spy 
lurks opposite our gate night and day 



to watch who comes and goes. You 
may not have noticed him, but he was 
there ; and it is quite possible that 
you also may find yourself dogged on 
account of your visit here." 

" It'll perhaps be bad for the dogger 
if I do," replied Morant, with no little 
savage elation at the idea of taking 
it out cf some one. " I will do your 
errand willingly, Mrs. Foxborough, 
and be off to Bunbury by to-night's 
train. I even thank you for trusting 
me with it, not so much as a mark 
of your friendship as for the relief 
it is that I am doing something to 
aid you in this terrible trial. Give 
my love to Nid, and now I'll 
wish you good-bye, trusting to bring 
you back good news from Bunbury 
to-morrow night." As Herbert 
Morant left the cottage he became 
conscious of that same lounging indi- 
vidual upon whom his eye had before 
mechanically rested, now apparently 
leisurely pursuing his way towards 
the West-end, and, at once awoke 
to the fact that this man was 
keeping watch and ward over Mrs. 
Foxborough's house. At first he 
thought the man's intention was to 
follow him, and Morant only waited 
to convince himself of this, to turn 
pretty fiercely upon his attendant, but 
ere they had gone three hundred 
yards the shabbily-dressed one turned 
back again, and it was clear that watch- 
ing Tapton Cottage was his sole 
business. 

As Herbert Morant walked home, 
he could not but reflect that the 
accumulation of evidence against Mr. 
Foxborough certainly was awkward. 
That he should be in the neighbour- 
hood of Bunbury, as confessedly b) 
his wife he was at the time of the 
murder, that somebody of his name 
should have invited the unfortunate 
Fossdyke to dinner at the Hopbine, and 
that he, Foxborough, was still not to 
be heard of, constituted an unfortunate 
concatenation of facts that might 
suffice to cast suspicion upon any one 
so circumstanced. Of course, he 
would scj the papers, and then 
nal urally wo'dd appear at the inquest 
anc' give an 'account of himself, and 
there would be an end of the whole 
business as Kr as he was con- 
cerned. But Morant could not 



bo 



AT FAULT 



help reflecting gravely, how very easy 
it may be for a man to fall under the 
shadow of crime, when circumstances 
could so array themselves against one 
as they had against James Fox- 
borough. 



CHAPTER XV 
"murder on the mind" 

Very curious are the ripples cast 
upon life's stream by a great crime ; 
as the circles thrown upon the stream 
by the sudden plunge of the big stone 
you have thrown in widen and get 
gradually fainter, so does the suddenly- 
snatched life, especially if one amongst 
the middle or higher classes, move 
men more or less as their connection 
with the dead man was small or 
great ; whether they move in the 
more immediate radius or the outer 
circles of the sped man's existence, so 
are they affected by his untimely end. 
Philip Soames was within the inner 
radius, and so much affected by the 
Bunbury murder as to be quite in- 
capable of paying ordinary attention 
to business. The dead man and his 
wife had not only, as before said, 
been very dear friends of his family 
for a long while, but he had taken it 
into his head to connect Bessie's 
secret somehow with the catastrophe. 
What connection the two could have 
even Phil could hazard no opinion 
about ; but he could not forget the 
expression that escaped her when he 
broke the murder of John Fossdyke 
to her. " It only wanted this," she 
had murmured half unconsciously. 
Also she had asked him at the theatre 
if Mr. Fossdyke had said anything 
about her to him. He utterly dis- 
credited the scandalous tattle which 
Mr. Totterdell had circulated con- 
cerning Miss Hyde in Baumborough, 
and it was well for that familiar old 
gentleman that he was as old as in- 
quisitive, or else it was quite likely 
he might have met rough chastise- 
ment at Phil's hands ; but he had 
come to the conclusion that Mr. 
Fossdyke knew something of Miss 
Hyde previous to her appearance in 
Baumborough, something more a good 
deal than Bessie had acknowledged 



to. Looking back coolly over the 
past, Philip called to mind that Miss 
Hyde had undoubtedly made her 
ddbut among them as Mrs. Fossdyke's 
companion ; that her brightness, good 
looks, and the way the Fossdykes 
treated her, had made people forget 
this, and gradually suppose her a 
relation. He further remembered 
that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Fossdyke 
had ever endorsed this assumption. 
He was firmly convinced, as men are 
at times, that with the investigation 
of this murder would also be disclosed 
this secret of Bessie's which so dis- 
tressed her, and which he verily 
believed to be a mere bugbear ; that 
there was something about the girl's 
relatives or antecedents to which she 
attached a disgrace, in all probability 
much over-estimated, he thought 
probable ; but that any disgrace 
attached to Bessie on her own 
account he would have scorned to 
believe. The consequence was that 
Phil Soames listened to every scrap of 
gossip, and read the different versions 
of the event in the papers with feverish 
interest. 

And the reading, although this was 
in the first forty-eight hours since the 
discovery of the crime, already waxed 
considerable ; this was a murder that 
had attracted the papers, and had 
also excited the public. The local 
position of the murdered man, the 
status of the supposed murderer ; 
and, moreover, the extraordinary 
audacity of the affair, if Mr. Fox- 
borough really was the murderer. To 
ask an excessively well-known man 
to dine at a first-class hotel, stab him 
during the night-time, pay the bill, 
and quietly depart by the first train in 
the morning, was a cynicism of crime 
that made people shiver. Under 
such circumstances what life was safe ? 
Another thing which still more in- 
flamed public curiosity concerning the 
business was that, despite the usual 
stereotyped phrase "that the police 
are understood to be in possession of 
a clue to the whereabouts of the 
supposed criminal," it was quite patent 
that they had as yet laid no hand 
upon him, and some outspoken 
sceptical journals, which maintained 
their footing chiefly by taking up bold 
and rather startling views about most 



MURDER ON THE MIND" 



81 



things, did not hesitate to avow that 
they had failed to discover the slight- 
est trace of him. Be that as it might, 
it was quite clear that Mr. Foxborough 
had not as yet come to the front, 
loudly protesting his innocence, as 
might be looked for in an innocent 
man. 

It was true there were a far smaller 
but more logical section of the public 
who agreed it looked very much more 
like suicide than murder; only to meet 
with the vehement retort from their 
excited fellows : " If it's not murder, 
where is Foxborough ? Why doesn't 
he come forward and tell bis story 
like a man?" To which the logical 
minority contending for suicide re- 
torted, of course, he would come 
forward at the proper time, which 
would be at the inquest. 

These last arguments pro and con 
were in men's mouths and not in the 
papers, not but what plenty of rheto- 
ricians would have been glad to see 
them there had time or editors per- 
mitted. 

Another atom of humanity, who, 
although he has never seen John 
Fossdyke, yet finds himself involved in 
the swirl occasioned by his tumultuous 
plunge into the waters of Lethe, is 
Mr. Sturton, the eminent Bond Street 
tailor. He, it may be remembered, 
assisted Mr. Cudemore to provide 
money for the presumed murderer's 
necessities on the security of the 
Syringa Music Hall. It is no anxiety 
about his money, it is the curious 
fascination cast over people by an 
extraordinary murder, intensified 
tenfold if connected indirectly even 
with one of the actors in the tragedy. 
Mr. Sturton almost felt compelled to 
apologize for taking interest in such a 
plebeian murder ; grand democrat 
though he was, and useless as in his 
speech he professed the House of 
Peers to be, in his heart he grovelled 
at a coronet. And yet these objects 
of his reverence tried him hard at 
times. One of his noble customers 
only lately in ordering a suit of clothes 
had expressed his approbation of a 
certain material. 

" You'll find it charming, my lord," 
said Mr. Sturton. " I can answer for 
it, because I have tried it myself." 

« You ! " replied the ruthless young 



Baron. "You have! damme, show 
me something else; you don't suppose 
I want to dress like my tailor, do 
you?" 

Candour compels me to add that 
that young nobleman would have been 
infinitely better dressed if he had. 
But Mr. Sturton was more impressed 
that night than ever with the necessity 
of disestablishing the House of Lords. 
Still he also has caught the epidemic, 
the fascination of crime, and hurries 
down to Bunbury to be present at the 
inquest. 

All Baumborough and Bunbury 
have caught the infection and talk of 
nothing else, every rumour is listened 
to with feverish impatience, the rail- 
way bookstall is stripped of the evening 
papers in less than half an hour, and 
the proprietor writes for a double 
supply for the morrow. All London 
trains are waylaid as they pass 
through to know if they bring any 
news about the murder, and the 
question on all men's lips in those 
parts is, " Have they taken Foxbor- 
ough ?" Still though the papers all 
concur in representing him as unheard 
of so far, whatever information the 
police may have they keep strictly to 
themselves. Mr. Totterdell, as might 
be supposed, is a sight to behold ; he 
haunts the station and buys papers 
with utter recklessness ; he reads 
them, he recapitulates every rumour, 
and he pretends to be in possession of 
the most astounding information if he 
were only permitted to divulge it. 
He writes letter after letter of sugges- 
tions to Sergeant Usher at Scotland 
Yard, and is no whit discouraged at 
getting no replies. I am afraid at 
this time he might have been not 
inaptly described as going about with 
his mouth full of lies and his pockets 
full of halfpence ; these lattter for the 
purchase of journals. 

The first day of the inquest is over, 
and, as was generally understood, only 
the preliminaries were got through, 
such as viewing the body, the identifi- 
cation of the deceased, etc. ; the real 
interest was to centre on the second 
day's proceedings, when some import- 
ant evidence would be probably 
produced, and all Baumborough had 
made up its mind to be present. 
Another person too who took an 



82 



AT FAUL1 



absorbing interest in the proceedings, 
as may well be supposed, was Dr. 
Ingleby. He had been one of the 
deceased's most intimate friends, and 
was the first to become acquainted 
with the tragic death that had befallen 
him. It was only natural that he 
should be influenced by the weird 
fascination of this mysterious crime, 
for, granting it was conclusively 
proved that James Foxborough was 
the criminal, where had the two men 
met, and what deadly quarrel was 
there between them to provoke Fox- 
borough to commit such a cold- 
blooded murder ? Another thing, too, 
calculated to excite any person's 
curiosity, was a short conversation he 
(the doctor) had held with Sergeant 
Usher on their return from Dyke. 

" Now, Dr. Ingleby," said the 
detective, " I am not going beating 
about the bush with you. I'm natur- 
ally a candid man." 

The doctor's eye twinkled. 

" Well," continued Sergeant Usher, 
with a chuckle quite as candid as is 
good for people, " but you can keep 
your mouth shut, and I can't do 
without your help. First I want to 
ask you a question. Did you ever 
hear a rumour of Mr. Fossdyke hav- 
ing an intrigue with any woman 
either before or since his marriage ? " 

" Certainly not ! Why ? " 

" You see this murder looks uncom- 
mon like a piece of bitter revenge. 
What do you know about Miss Hyde, 
sir? I heard in the town there was a 
mystery about her." 

"She came here as Mrs. Foss- 
dyke's companion, and I don't believe 
there is any mystery about her at all. 
That old fool Totterdell set that story 
afloat, simply because the girl declineS 
to recite her biography to him." 

" Now, doctor, I want you to move 
the ladies at Dyke to search high and 
low for that letter." 

" The letter which took poor Foss- 
dyke to Bunbury ? " 

" Just so. I have an idea that letter 
might change the whole aspect of the 
case. I take it Mr. Fossdyke knew the 
writing and the writer, and if the hand- 
writing is that of James Foxborough 
it will begin to look excessively awk- 
ward for that gentleman. If he is 
innocent, he will most likely give 



himself up after the inquest, and in 
any case we shall hear of him 
in two or three days, I fancy ; but, 
mark me, Dr. Ingleby, if by any 
chance it should turn out that James 
Foxborough is not guilty, then the 
murderer is a real artist, and has 
left a blind track and not a trace of 
his own footsteps. He will be difficult 
to lay hold of. Good-bye, sir, for the 
present. I may see you at the inquest 
perhaps," and so saying Sergeant 
Usher took his departure. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE INQUEST 

There was a bustle in the streets of 
Bunbury, such as might betoken a 
market day, and yet it was neither 
the buying nor the selling of corn 
or vegetables, neither the chaffering 
for fruit nor poultry, that had thronged 
Bunbury on this occasion. To learn 
how a man came by his end was the 
matter that brought most people into 
the town this bright autumn morning. 
The people surged about the railway 
station, eddied about the streets, but 
sooner or later flowed up the hill and 
gravitated towards the Hopbine, where 
the inquest was being held. Getting 
into the room had been hopeless half 
an hour after the coroner had taken 
his seat, but we all know how persis- 
tently a crowd will hang about locked 
doors with some indefinite idea of see- 
ing or learning something. Old Joe 
Marlinson sits in the bar-parlour 
almost speechless with indignation. 
A crowd permeate the Hopbine, whom 
Mr. Marlinson in his wrath designates 
as " scum " ; they order spirits and 
water in jocund and plentiful fashion, 
laugh at the head-waiter's remonstrance 
anent their smoking in the coffee-room, 
and not only smoke there, but about 
all the lower part of the hotel generally 
they lunch freely, and seem to look 
upon the whole thing in the light of 
" a bean feast " or some such festivity, 
instead of the investigation of a pre- 
sumed murder. 

Old Marlinson is in a state of mind 
bordering on distraction. He devoutly 



THE INQVES'I 



83 



trusts James Foxborough will be cap- 
tured and endure the extreme penalty 
of the law : not so much for the crime 
he is supposed to have committed, but 
for his disgusting presumption in 
having selected the Hopbine in which 
to accomplish his purpose. The old 
man has appealed to Inspector 
Thresher to clear the house, and 
given a confused opinion in support of 
his application that they were all drunk 
and disorderly, and that he wanted no 
riff-raff at the Hopbine. In vain did 
the inspector laughingly observe, if 
they weren't all county families, they 
were a good-humoured, orderly crowd 
enough, that there was a certain 
amount of license allowable on these 
occasions, that the Hopbine was, 
after all, a house of call, and could 
not refuse to serve guests in canonical 
hours, and that it was right good for 
trade. 

" House of call," gasped old Marlin- 
son, " well I'm dashed ! — the Hop- 
bine a house of call just like any 

hedge alehouse,— well I'm d d. 

Clear the house, Thresher, clear the 
house," and he continued at intervals 
to call upon the good-natured in- 
spector to " clear the house " with 
the same obstinate incongruity as 
" Mrs. F.'s aunt " demanded Arthur 
Clenman's ejection through the win- 
dow. 

The big room upstairs in which 
the inquest was sitting was as full 
as it was allowed to be, for the 
coroner had long ago given stringent 
orders against further admission there- 
to. The preliminaries had been got 
over as narrated in the last chapter 
the day before, and the medical testi- 
mony had been then taken. Both 
Drs. Duncome and Ingleby were 
clear and consistent in their testimony 
that John Fossdyke met his death 
from the dagger-wound in his chest, 
they had neither of them the slight- 
est doubt the blade had pierced 
the heart, and death must have been 
almost instantaneous ; that it was 
possible the wound was self-in- 
flicted they both concurred, but 
about its probability they differed. 
Dr. Duncome gave his opinion that 
it was probable Mr. Fossdyke had 
himself dealt the blow that killed 
him. Dr. Ingleby, on the contrary, 



while not denying that it was quite 
possible it was so, pointed out that 
in the case of a man stabbing him- 
self the wound would usually have a 
downward direction, as it would 
be natural to him to deal the blow 
overhand. In this case the wound 
ran slightly upwards, as a man might 
deliver it with a foil or in a duel 
with swords. To him it appeared 
that the wound was the result of a 
lunge rather than a stab. He did 
not deny that it might have been 
self-inflicted, but he considered that 
it was improbable. Dr. Ingleby's 
testimony had of course thrown a 
strong suspicion of " wilful murder " 
around the case, and the excitement 
concerning the second day's inquiry 
was very great. It was rumoured, 
as it so often is rumoured under these 
circumstances, that startling dis- 
closures would be made in the course 
of the day, that some extremely 
trenchant evidence would be come 
by, that a lady had been brought 
down from London who could throw 
most important light upon the case, 
etc. It was quite clear that this 
second day of the inquiry would be 
of much interest. 

Phil Soames, with face grave and 
stern, is there in company with Dr. 
Ingleby, to see what the result of 
the day may be. Hardly has the 
former taken his seat when he feels 
a hand upon his shoulder and a voice 
familiar in days gone by, exclaim — 
" How are you, Phil ? " He turns, 
and recognising Morant, wrings his 
hand heartily as he asks, " Good 
heavens, Herbert 1 what brought you 
here ? " 

"It's odd, Phil, very," replies the 
latter quietly, as he sat down beside 
his old university chum, " but I have 
as deep an interest in this case as 
you. If the murdered man was a 
dear friend of yours, the supposed 
murderer is a friend of mine. I don't 
know so very much about him, but 
with his wife and daughter I am 
very intimate, and you may easily 
imagine the terrible state of mind 
they are in about the whole business. 
I no more believe Foxborough cap- 
able of such a crime than I do you : 
that appearances look horribly against 
him I'll admit, but I fully expect to 



8 4 



AT FAULT 



see him turn up to-day and explain 

everything." 

" I trust he may," replied Soames ; 
"but Thresher, the head of the 
police here, gave me to understand 
just now, that the accumulated evi- 
dence against Foxborough is terribly 
strong. It is a mysterious case, and 
at present incomprehensible. My 
own idea is that some old quarrel 
existed between the pair, and also 
some money transactions which have 
been the reason of their meeting, 
that the old feud was renewed, and 
maddened by wine and probably 
having had the worst of the alterca- 
tion with poor Fossdyke, in a 
moment of passion Foxborough slew 
him." 

" Good heavens, Phil, according 
to what I have read the man was 
stabbed in his sleep ! " 

" That that was not the case, 
my friend Dr. Ingleby can vouch 
for. Allow me to introduce you." 

The two gentlemen bowed. 

" No," said Dr. Ingleby, " poor 
Fossdyke was not murdered in his 
sleep ; he was out of bed and in his 
shirt and trousers, and, moreover, 
the bed had never been slept in. 
My theory, Mr. Morant, is that he 
was killed in the sitting-room adjoin- 
ing, and carried to the bedroom after 
he was dead ; but we shall hear 
what Inspector Thresher has got to 
bring before us to-day." 

" You are conclusive, Dr. Ingleby, 
as to its being murder then, and 
not a case of suicide ? " said Morant. 

" Yes, I am, and I have told you my 
theory of the whole crime ; but 
please remember that though I can 
set forth arguments against its being 
self-murder, and though the evidence 
will show you clearly that Fossdyke 
was never slain in his bed, yet I am 
bound to say my idea that he was 
killed in the sitting-room is utterly 
unwarranted by any evidence as yet 
produced." 

And now the coroner re-opens the 
inquiry, and the jury shuffle into 
their places. A well-known solicitor 
of much experience in criminal cases 
has been sent down to watch the 
case for the Crown, and the first 
witness on the day's list is Eliza 
Salter, the chambermaid. She re- 



capitulates the evidence she has al- 
ready given as to her unavailing 
attempts to rouse Mr. Fossdyke, how 
as the day wore on she gently 
turned the door-handle with a view of 
peeping into the room, thinking some- 
thing might have befallen him, and 
found the door locked ; then she 
called her master, and after once 
more knocking very loudly, William 
Gibbons, the boots, by Mr. Marlin- 
son's orders, broke the door open, 
and they found the deceased gentle- 
man lying on the floor with a curi- 
ous dagger planted in his breast. 
The writing-table in the room and 
the chair were upset ; the bed had 
evidently not been occupied. 

Mr. Trail, the gentleman watching 
the case on behalf of the Crown, 
obtained permission from the coroner 
to put a few questions to the wit- 
ness, and elicited the following facts : 
— Mr. Fossdyke was attired in his 
shirt and trousers, yes, and boots ; 
he had dressed for dinner, and when 
discovered had his neckcloth on also. 
He had taken off nothing but his 
coat. The waistcoat had certainly 
not been pierced by the dagger, but 
it was a low-cut dress waistcoat, and 
the stab was dealt outside it, nearly 
in the centre of the chest. The key 
was not in the lock, nor had they 
been able to find it as yet, though 
the room had been searched closely. 

Mr. Trail had enjoyed a quarter 
of an hour's conversation with Ser- 
geant Usher, who had suggested the 
points that in his opinion required 
clearing up. 

Mr. Marlinson followed and gave 
corroborative evidence to Eliza Salter, 
the chambermaid. Further questioned 
by Mr. Trail, he said that every bed- 
room in the Hopbine had a key to it 
invariably kept in the inside of the 
door. Mr. Fossdyke's room being 
locked was conclusive evidence that 
the key had been in the lock as it 
should be, but what had become of 
the key he could not say. Inspector 
Thresher had given him to understand 
that the discovery of this key was 
a matter of importance. Couldn't see 
it mattered much himself, but all the 
same he had given orders it was to 
be found if possible. Search high, 
search low, they could find nothing of 



HIE INQUEST 



«5 



that key. Here the witness expressed 
himself in an excited and somewhat 
incoherent speech to the effect th.it 
this was a pretty thing to happen in a 
first-class hotel, that some people 
ought to feel ashamed of themselves, 
winding up with a request to the 
coroner to clear the house ; after 
which he was led gently away by 
Inspector Thresher, murmuring re- 
peated blessings upon the assembly 
generally, and spent the remainder of 
the afternoon in confidentially cursing 
and tasting the liqueurs at the back 
of the bar-parlour. Dr. Ingleby had 
not failed to notice that though In- 
spector Thresher, of the Bunbury 
police, apparently controlled the pro- 
duction of evidence, he now and 
again referred to a quiet little grey 
man, who seemed almost to depre- 
cate being noticed at all, and whom 
probably few other people regarded, 
much less recognised as Sergeant 
Usher. 

The next witness was William Gib- 
bons, the boots. William proved 
what is termed rather a flippant wit- 
ness. He had in his humble way 
that misty idea that accident had 
given him that opportunity of distin- 
guishing himself which was perme- 
ating the brain of Mr. Totterdell. 
William Gibbons had little doubt in 
his own mind that the whole key to 
the mystery lay with him, and that 
when his testimony had been taken 
there would be merely the trifling 
addenda of arresting and hanging 
Foxborough to follow. He deposed 
how he had called Mr. Foxborough 
on Wednesday, the 4th of September, 
about seven o'clock. Mr. Foxborough 
had arrived at the Hopbine on Satur- 
day, August 31st, had gone over to 
Baumborough on Monday, September 
2nd, had received Mr. Fossdyke to 
dinner on Tuesday, the 3rd, and left 
on the following day. He called Mr. 
Foxborough at the time mentioned by 
his own order, as he wished to catch 
the 8.30 train for town, which was a 
through train, and stopped nowhere 
between Bunbury and London. He 
saw Mr. Foxborough off by that train, 
and put his portmanteau into the 
carriage with him. In the afternoon 
he was called by his master to break 
open Mr. Fossdyke's door ; had heard 



from Eliza Salter previously how late 
that gentlem.tn was sleeping ; how 
she could get no answer to her 
knocks, and how she went so far as to 
say she thought " something must 
have happened to him, a fit or such 
like," continued the witness, " which 
it had ; when we got the door open 
the poor gentleman was lying on his 
back with a fanciful dagger buried in 
his chest ; that was the fit he had, poor 
soul, and it's my opinion, gentlemen, 
that a more slimy, cold-blooded viper 



Mr. Gibbons was sharply pulled up 
by the coroner, who informed him 
they should not require his opinion, 
simply his account of what he had 
seen, and that he appeared to have 
already narrated all he knew from 
personal observation. 

Further questioned by Mr. Trail, 
William Gibbons said they had none 
of them known Mr. Foxborough's 
name until Mr. Fossdyke had asked 
for him by it. He had himself 
thought there was something sus- 
picious in a guest keeping his name 
dark. In all his experience, and as 



Here once more the coroner ruth- 
lessly interposed, and curtly informed 
Mr. Gibbons they required neither his 
thoughts nor the results of his experi- 
ence, and that unless Mr. Trail had 
any further question to ask him he 
might retire. 

Mr. Trail having declined to at- 
tempt the extraction of further evi- 
dence from the redoubtable William, 
that worthy withdrew murmuring, " U 
this was the way these here murders 
was sifted, if the opinions of sensible 
men who had, so to speak, been in a 
way almost in it, weren't to be thought 
of any account, how did any crowners 
or juries or blessed peelers think they 
was going to get at the rights of 
things ?" 

" I wouldn't for the world, Phil, say 
a word against the poor fellow that's 
gone, but it really seems to me there 
is next to no evidence of murder," 
whispered Morant. " Dr. Ingleby 
says that his opinion is theory only." 

" Yes, but not with regard to the 
wound ; that he holds decidedly was 
not self-inflicted. Still so far there is 
not much to implicate Foxborough 



86 



AT FAULT 



beyond this : If it is murder, and not 
Foxborough, who on earth can it be?" 

Thomas Jenkinson, the waiter, was 
now brought forward by Inspector 
Thresher. He bore witness to the 
arrival of No. 1 1 on the Saturday, to 
his sudden interest in the opening of 
the Baumborough Theatre, how on 
his return from there on Monday he 
announced that he had a friend 
coming to dine with him next day ; 
how the following morning he gave 
rather elaborate directions about this 
dinner to Mr. Marlinson, and how 
eventually Mr. Fossdyke arrived, and 
asked for No. n under the name of 
Foxborough ; they had not known his 
name at the Hopbine previously. 
Further questioned by Mr. Trail, 
Jenkinson said the two gentlemen 
drank a good deal of wine, but were 
neither of them the least the worse 
for liquor when he left them. Took 
up a tray according to order at half- 
past ten with a small decanter of 
brandy and four bottles of seltzer. 
Two bottles of the seltzer only were 
drunk, but all the brandy was gone 
when the chambermaid brought it 
down the next morning. Heard the 
voices of both gentlemen raised as if 
in dispute as he brought up the tray, 
and as he entered the room heard Mr. 
Foxborough say, " The game is in my 
hands, and they are my terms," or 
words to that effect. The gentlemen 
stopped talking the minute they saw 
him. Had never seen Mr. Fossdyke 
before, and should not have known 
who he was, but was told by his 
master and Salter, who both, it ap- 
peared, knew him. 

The next witness was Inspector 
Thresher, whose evidence was brief 
and business-like. He simply testi- 
fied to having been sent for by Mar- 
linson, and finding Mr. Fossdyke 
stabbed through the heart, and stone 
dead, as described by three of the 
previous witnesses. He at once took 
charge of the room and everything in 
it, and telegraphed a brief account of 
the affair to Scotland Yard. The un- 
fortunate gentleman's rings, watch, 
and some ten pounds odd, consisting 
of a five-pound note, gold, and silver, 
lay on the dressing-table. He knew 
Mr. Fossdyke perfectly ; he was often 
over in Bunbury for a day or so ; but 



usually got back to Baumborough 

to sleep. 

And now, wheezing and puffing 
with excitement, Mr. Totterdell ap- 
pears. He is a splendid specimen of 
that very aggravating species, the dis- 
cursive witness ; convinced too at this 
present that the eyes of England are 
upon him, and will continue on him 
for no little time, for the evidence he 
is about to give before the coroner 
will but whet the curiosity of the 
public for the disclosures he will be 
likely to make at the trial, when 
everything he wishes to tell is drawn 
from him by the acute questioning of 
counsel. Mr. Totterdell is happily 
oblivious of that other side of tender- 
ing important evidence — namely, the 
being turned inside out by a sharp 
cross-examiner, a process that usually 
gives a witness of his description a 
literal approximation to what a cock- 
chafer's feelings must be with a pin 
through him. No buzz left in him, 
but as deadly gnawing at the vitals 
as ever Prometheus endured on his 
rock. 

Now, the coroner — who thoroughly 
understood his work, and was a toler- 
ably firm, decisive man to boot, 
generally kept his jury in excellent 
order for instance, and promptly put a 
stop to irrelevant tendencies in Mar- 
linsons or Bill Gibbonses — had this 
one weakness, he couldn't quite 
harden his heart to cut a gentleman 
short in similar fashion. Mr. Totter- 
dell, Town Councillor of Baum- 
borough, in his eyes, claimed indul- 
gence not to be granted to witnesses 
of more plebeian positions, and that 
worthy gentleman commenced his 
evidence with a little homily concern- 
ing his regret that he and the 
lamented deceased had not of late 
been on intimate terms. Nobody re- 
gretted it more than he did, but it was 
not his fault ; it all arose from that 
fatal reticence that was the blot in 
poor Fossdyke's character ; and here 
Mr. Totterdell looked around, as if to 
point out to the spectators the flood of 
light he was letting in upon the case. 

The coroner, who had been fidget- 
ing in his chair for some minutes, 
took advantage of the pause to say, 
" You must pardon my remarking, Mr. 
Totterdell, that all this has nothing to 



THE INQUEST 



«7 



do with the inquiry, and that I must 
request you to confine your evidence 
as to what you may know of Mr. Fox- 
borough." 

" I am beginning my story, sir, 
torn the first ; it is not probable that 
»ny one can throw such light upon 
{his awful crime as myself, and I 

must request " continued Mr. 

Totterdell. 

" You're perfectly right, Mr. Coro- 
ner," struck in Mr. Trail ; " as watch- 
ing the case for the Crown I have no 
hesitation in pointing out, first, that 
the witness's evidence so far is utterly 
irrelevant to the matter in hand ; and, 
in the second place, I am requested 
to say that these details are likely to 
be peculiarly painful to the deceased's 
family." 

" As I said before, Mr. Totterdell," 
remarked the coroner, " I must beg 
you to restrict your evidence to your 
personal knowledge of Mr. Fox- 
borough for the present, and what 
took place between you at Baum- 
borough. If you have nothing to tell 
us on this point we will not detain you 
any longer." 

If the coroner had studied for weeks 
how to extinguish the discursive 
Totterdell he could have set upon 
nothing so effectual. The bare idea 
that his evidence might be dispensed 
with gave that gentleman a cold 
shiver. It was in a much more sub- 
missive manner that he rejoined, " I 
was only anxious to make things as 
clear as possible, and am sorry that 
the truth should be offensive to my 
goddaughter, Mrs. Fossdyke ; but if, 
sir, in a preliminary inquiry like this, 
you desire condensed evidence, of 
course I can give you a sketch of 
what I have to tell." 

" Preliminary inquiry," " Sketch of 
what he had to tell"— these two 
phrases put the coroner on his mettle. 
He had no idea of his court being 
looked at in that light, and the im- 
pertinence of suggesting that an out- 
line of evidence was sufficient for his 
inquiry made that official modify his 
views about treating Mr. Totterdell 
with much consideration not a little. 

" I have only to say, Mr. Totter- 
dell, that this investigation cannot go 
on for ever," he remarked sharply. 
" If you have anything to tell us, per- 



haps you will be kind enough to do so 
at once without further rambling ; if 
not, I will hear the next witness." 

The fear of not being allowed to tell 
his story at once coerced Mr. Totter- 
dell into telling it as far as in him lay 
without amplifications, and, supported 
by Mr. Trail, the coroner determined 
to pull the garrulous old gentleman up 
sharply if he attempted any such wild 
digression as he had commenced 
with ; but to narrate what we know 
or have seen succinctly is only given 
to the few, and men of the Totterdell 
stamp can no more help being diffuse 
on an occasion of this kind than they 
can help breathing. The clear, con- 
cise account, so prized by lawyers, 
scientific inquirers, medical men, etc., 
— all, in short, who wish to arrive at 
facts as quickly as may be — is not 
possible to many from whom they are 
compelled to collect evidence. Mr. 
Totterdell, in vague, wandering 
fashion, disclosed how he had made 
the acquaintance of the stranger at 
the opening of the Baumborough 
theatre, his curiosity about who people 
were, his especial curiosity with regard 
to the deceased, how the stranger had 
even requested him to spell the name 
of Fossdyke, how he had asked who 
Miss Hyde was, and here Mr. Totter- 
dell would have been wildly discursive 
if the coroner had not intervened. 
Pulled up abruptly on this point, the 
old gentleman narrated, with sundry 
shrugs and grimaces, how he had 
picked up the music-hall bill, and so 
arrived at the stranger's name, " and 
thus," he added, looking round for 
applause and posing as if receiving 
the freedom of the city in a gold box, 
" was enabled to give valuable infor- 
mation to the police and be of in- 
estimable service to my country." And 
neither the goose that saved the 
Capitol, nor the first Stuart discover- 
ing the Gunpowder Plot, ever looked 
half so sagacious as Mr. Totterdell at 
this juncture. Nobody in the room 
had listened more closely to Mr. 
Totterdell's evidence than Sergeant 
Usher ; indeed, although keeping him- 
self sedulously in the background, not 
even Mr. Trail was keeping a keener 
watch over the case. 

" Pretty conclusive, that I should 
say," remarked Inspector Thresher, 



88 



AT FAULT 



as he crossed over to where the 
sergeant was seated. 

"He told all he knew, and was very 
anxious to tell a deal more he didn't. 
What a wasteful creature of time it is. 
It was well the coroner responded so 
quickly to Mr. Trail, just to curb him 
up a bit." 

" What does this next witness know 
about it ? " 

" Well, to tell you the plain truth, 
Thresher, that's just what I am a 
little curious to see," rejoined the 
sergeant. 

" I can't see how a young woman 
from London can throw much light 
on it." 

" Lord ! there's no knowing," re- 
joined the sergeant quietly. " It's as- 
tonishing the light I've seen thrown upon 
things by young women in my time." 

Ellen Maitland, a nice-looking, 
quietly-dressed girl, here stepped for- 
ward and answered to her name. 
She seemed very nervous, and was 
obviously much distressed. She was 
parlour-maid, she said, to Mrs. Fox- 
borough, at Tapton Cottage, Regent's 
Park. Did not know what she had 
been summoned here for. Had heard 
of the murder, but knew nothing 
whatever of Mr. Fossdyke. Had 
never seen or even heard of him till 
the last two days. Her master was 
much away from home ; had last seen 
him about a week ago at Tapton 
Cottage. Knew that he was sus- 
pected of this crime, but felt sure 
that he had nothing to do with it. 

The coroner looked a little im- 
patiently at Inspector Thresher, &s 
much as to say, " Producing witnesses 
like this is simply frittering away the 
time of the court." Inspector 
Thresher on his part looked round for 
Sergeant Usher, who in reality was 
responsible for Ellen Maitland's 
appearance, but that worthy was 
nowhere to be seen. The coroner 
signified that he had no further occa- 
sion for the witness ; and she was 
about to leave the table, when Mr. 
Trail suddenly rose and said, " With 
your permission, Mr. Coroner, I have 
a question or two to put to this 
young woman." 

The coroner signified his assent. 
Then almost with the dexterity 
of a conjurer, Mr. Trail produced that 



quaint Eastern dagger that has played 
so prominent a part in the history of 
this crime, and turning abruptly on 
Ellen Maitland asked—" Had she 
ever seen that before ? " 

The girl half uttered a low cry of 
dismay, for she had read enough in 
the papers to know what that weapon 
was. She hesitated for a moment, 
and then faltered forth a reluctant 
" Yes." 

" Where had she seen it ?" 

"At Tapton Cottage. It was some- 
times in the drawing-room, but more 
generally in Mr. Foxborough's own 
room." 

" Good heavens, Phil ! " whispered 
Herbert Morant, "I know that dagger 
well. I've played with it often. Its 
nominal use was that of a paper- 
cutter, but a knick-knack more de- 
scribed its status than any other term." 

" I am sorry for you," returned 
Soames, as he gripped his friend's 
hand. " I begin to fear your trouble 
is like to prove worse than mine own." 

" What do you think ? " asked 
Herbert in an awe-struck whisper. 

" Hush," replied Phil. " I only 
know that things are looking very 
ugly for Mr. Foxborough. Where 
can he be ? It is almost preposterous 
to suppose in these days he can 
possibly be ignorant of the awful 
indictment against him ; of the awful 
crime with which he is charged." 

" It will be terrible news for me to 
take back to London," murmured 
Morant in tremulous tones. 

" It looks bad," rejoined Phil, " but 
we haven't heard it out yet." 

" Do you know," resumed Mr. 
Trail, " whether Mr. Foxborough 
took this away with him when he last 
left London ? " 

The witness could not say, not to 
her knowledge at all events. 

"When did you first miss it ?" 

" I have never missed it. I didn't 
notice that it had disappeared." 

" Then for all you know positively," 
observed Mr. Trail, "that dagger 
might be actually in Tapton Cottage 
at this moment ? " 

" It might," but the witness re- 
membered that she had not seen it 
lately ; " if that was not the same 
da^sjer j t was the very ditto of it." 

Mr. Trail then intimated that he 



THE fNQUEST 



89 



had no other questions to put, and 
Inspector Thresher informed the 
coroner that he had no further 
evidence to produce. Poor Ellen 
Maitland retired in a somewhat tear- 
ful state, produced by the fear that 
she had somehow worked woe to her 
mistress, for whom she had the great- 
est admiration and respect. And then 
the coroner proceeded to sum up. 
He commented first on the medical 
testimony, which, as he pointed out, 
was at variance ; whereas Dr. Dun- 
come rather inclined to believe it was 
a case of suicide, Dr. Ingleby was 
strongly of opinion that the wound was 
not self-inflicted. It was quite clear 
that, whoever No. n might be, the 
deceased recognised him under the 
name of Foxborough, and asked for 
him by that appellation. The evi- 
dence of Mr. Totterdell was as yet of 
small account, as he could not identify 
the stranger as James Foxborough, 
the dropped music-hall bill of course 
going tor nothing ; but, if in conse- 
quence of their verdict Foxborough 
should be apprehended, then Mr. 
Totterdell's evidence as to his identity 
or not with the stranger at the theatre 
would be of the highest importance. 
He was only calling the attention of 
the jury to the more salient points of 
the evidence, and the testimony of 
the last witness perhaps tended more 
to implicate Foxborough than any- 
thing else. Ellen Maitland identified 
the weapon with which the crime had 
been committed as her master's 
property. The motive for this mur- 
der, if murder you consider it, was so 
far unapparent, but that is by no 
means uncommon in crimes of this 
description. The facts were briefly 
these : " Mr. Fossdyke comes to the 
Hopbine to dine with a strange 
gentleman, whom he before the land- 
lord and waiter recognised as Mr. 
Foxborough ; they undoubtedly have 
some dispute in the course of the 
evening. Mr. Foxborough leaves the 
first thing next morning, and has not 
since been heard of, while in the 
afternoon his guest is found stabbed 
through the heart, and the somewhat 
peculiar weapon with which the crime 
was accomplished is proved to be the 
property of the still absent Foxbor- 
ough. Of course, gentlemen, you 



may find it suicide, but in the event of 
your finding it murder, I would 
submit to your consideration whether 
you are not justified in returning a 
verdict of wilful murder against James 
Foxborough." 

There was a brief consultation 
amongst the jury, and then the fore- 
man intimated to the coroner that 
they had arrived at a conclusion, and, 
in response to the customary interro- 
gatory on his part, the foreman re- 
turned, on behalf of himself and 
brethren, a verdict of "Wilful murder 
against James Foxborough." 

The verdict was quite in accordance 
with popular expectation, and yet the 
day's proceedings had influenced 
some of the lookers-on in a way they 
little expected. Mr. Sturton, for 
instance, now that a verdict of wilful 
murder was actually recorded against 
the missing Foxborough, was per- 
turbed in his mind about that loan of 
,£6,000 of which he found the major 
part not a fortnight ago. It is not 
that he is anxious about his money, 
that he knows is well secured, but he 
is not clear whether it is not his duty 
to communicate with the police, and 
let them know how well furnished 
with funds the fugitive is. He has as 
much horror of being mixed up in a 
case of this kind as Mr. Totterdell 
has pride, and yet he would fain, as a 
law-abiding citizen, do his duty to the 
State ; still he thinks, as he wends his 
way to the station, there is no neces- 
sity for immediate action. It will be 
time enough to communicate with 
Scotland Yard a day or two hence. 

" It's of course useless asking you 
to come back with me, Herbert," said 
Soames, "but remember, in a week 
or two, when we have a little got over 
all this trouble, I shall expect you to 
pay me your deferred visit." 

" I am only too anxious to do so, 
but I must go back to-night. You 
were saying it was a cruel task 
the having to break the sad tidings of 
her husband's death to Mrs. Fossdyke, 
but think, Phil, the story I have got 
to tell when I reach London — to tell 
these unfortunate ladies what a cor- 
oner's inquest has branded their 
husband and father." 

" It's hard — cruel hard," replied 
Soames. as he gripped his friend's 



9o 



AT FAULT 



hand. " God send you well through 
it, old man." 

" One moment, Dr. Ingleby," said a 
voice in his ear, as he was about to 
follow Phil into the Bunbury train, 
" but have you made out anything 
about that letter?" 

" No, I am sorry to tell you that so 
far all search for it has proved fruit- 
less ; you still attach great importance 
to its discovery ? " 

" I told you that, sir," replied Ser- 
geant Usher, '' I told you that letter 
was worth a hundred pounds a few 
days ago. Well, sir, 1 tell you it's 
worth two hundred now," and with 
that mysterious commentary on the 
result of the day's proceedings the 
sergeant disappeared. 



CHAPTER XVII 

SERGEANT USHER VISITS THE 
HOPBINE 

Sergeant Usher occupies a second 
floor in Spring Gardens. It is handy 
to the Yard and to a good many 
other places which are in the ordinary 
routine of the sergeant's business ; 
railway stations like Charing Cross and 
Victoria within easy distance, Mary- 
lebone, Bow Street, and Westminster 
police courts specially comeatable, to 
say nothing of the Seven Dials, 
Drury Lane, Short's Gardens, Bed- 
fordbury, and the slums of Westmin- 
ster, all, so to speak, being under the 
sergeant's own eye. Mr. Usher is a 
bachelor ; he has a mean opinion of 
the other sex, probably consequent on 
bad treatment received at the hands 
of one of them, although he professes 
it to be founded on professional 
experience. A profound believer Mr. 
Usher in the theory of cherchez la 
feinme. A woman, he contends, is at 
the bottom of most crimes, and when 
puzzled by an intricate case the ser- 
geant invariably takes it that a 
woman, as yet undiscovered, is the 
probable motive-factor. 

" Having no fair partner to share 
his home, the sergeant is constrained 
in a great measure to do for himself," 
and a defter bachelor is seldom come 
across. Having let himself into bis 



lodgings with his latchkey, after his. 

usually noiseless fashion, on his return 
from Bunbury, the sergeant proceeded 
to light the fire, throw off his boots, 
and then in the easy deshabille of slip- 
pers and shirt sleeves, looked in the 
cupboard for a gridiron and a couple 
of chops ; these obtained, and the fire 
by this having sufficiently burnt up, 
Mr. Usher proceeded first to broil his 
chops, and then to consume them with 
the adjuncts of bread, pickles, etc., all 
furnished by the same inexhaustible 
cupboard, leaving the clearing up to 
the charwoman next morning. Mr. 
Usher next produced a bottle of whis- 
key, put the kettle on the fire, and 
having lit a long clay pipe, sat down 
to smoke and ruminate over this Bun- 
bury case as far as he had carried it. 

" It is a queer business this," he 
muttered to himself, " and it certainly 
begins to look awkward for Foxbor- 
ough, and yet, after all, the strongest 
evidence against him is himself. If 
he is not guilty, where is he ? and, 
Usher, my friend, I don't mind owning 
to you in confidence, that's ' a rum 
'un.' If anybody had told me a man 
like James Foxborough could openly 
leave Bunbury for London, be wanted 
within twelve hours, and have appar- 
ently vanished into space, I'd have 
called him a noddy ; but we can't find 
a trace of him from the time he left 
Bunbury platform. Until that girl 
recognised the dagger to-day, I was 
beginning to suspect we were in 
search of the wrong Foxborough ; and 
yet, if that is so, why does not James 
Foxborough come forward ? Every 
one's talking about this murder ; he 
must have heard he's accused of it, 
and to prove an alibi if he was not the 
man at Bunbury must be as simple as 
falling off a log. It's perhaps a little 
early to speak, but it strikes me as 
somewhat odd that the theatrical 
agents seem all abroad about him as 
the manager of touring country com- 
panies ; they seem to know nothing 
about him in that line, and yet, 
any man who has anything to do 
with that sort of business is pretty 
well known right through the profes- 
sion. 

" No, this murder — and I feel pretty 
clear now that it is a murder — is, as 
Mr. Saueers said of natur\ 'a rum 'un.' 



SERGEANT USHER VISITS THE HOPBINE 



91 



The why of it and the where of it? 
for it is not at all clear to me that 
Fossdyke was killed in his bedroom. 
I'm candid, very ; but I did not let on 
to Dr. Ingleby that my theory coin- 
cided with his, and that the man was 
stabbed in the sitting-room. I reck- 
oned up that room,too, but could make 
nothing out of it ; the leaving the 
dagger in the wound, whether done 
by accident or design, of course 
stopped the effusion of blood ; still it 
is curious there were no traces what- 
ever of it. Shrewd man, old Ingleby ; 
his theory about the direction of the 
wound had stuff in it." And here Mr. 
Usher refilled his pipe and mixed 
himself a jorum of hot whiskey and 
water. 

Staring into the glowing coals, and 
puffing forth heavy clouds of smoke, 
the sergeant resumed his argument : 

" There's that letter, the key to the 
whole business I'd lay my life if I 
could but come by it, but that's not 
likely now ; Fossdyke probably de- 
stroyed it. Miss Hyde, now — I 
shouldn't wonder if that girl could 
throw some light upon the affair if 
she chose. She had heard and knew 
something of James Foxborough 
before the murder, I'd bet my life, but 
she's not the young woman to commit 
herself, I fancy. Once we lay hold of 
Foxborough, and he is identified with 
the man at the Hopbine, it is simple 
enough, but as things stand at present 
no jury would find him guilty of 
murder, in my opinion. To think 
him so and find him so are two 
different things in the mind of a juror, 
and in this case he'd be right. The 
evidence, if awkward, is not conclusive 
as yet. But how are we to get at 
Foxborough? — privately I own I'm 
beat. Watching the house in the 
Regent's Park neighbourhood is no 
good — he has never been near it yet, 
and is not likely to make for that now. 
I'll see the watch is taken off to- 
morrow — it's useless, and leaving the 
nest unguarded might perchance en- 
snare our bird. A man like Foxbor- 
ough would be well supplied with 
money and brains, and with them a 
man ought to beat all Scotland Yard 
in London. If we don't come upon 
James Foxborough in a few days I 
shall begin to feel pretty confident 



that he is the man we want, but as 
yet I've not quite made up my mind 
about it. Nice old man about a 
town that Totterdell. Shouldn't 
wonder if he don't cause a murder or 
so before he dies. A daft, diffuse 
gabbler like that sets people pretty 
wild at times, and leads to the cutting 
of the wrong throat. Rough, rough, 
very rough — just like turkeys — we 
never kill the old gobbler who makes 
all the cackle, but some of his unfor- 
tunate followers who are weak 
enough to listen to him " ; and with 
this profound moral reflection, 
Sergeant Usher knocked the ashes 
out of his pipe, finished his whiskey 
and water, and took himself off to 
bed. 

That a coroner's jury had returned, 
a verdict of " Wilful murder against 
James Foxborough" did not go for 
much in the eyes of Sergeant Usher ; 
people were neither hung nor sen- 
tenced on the direction of a coroner's 
jury, and a conviction that had not 
that result was a mere blank cartridge 
affair compared to a regular battle in 
the sergeant's eyes. This man was an 
enthusiast in his vocation — he was 
not one whit bloodthirsty, he had no 
craving for any extreme sentence 
against the unfortunate he had 
brought face to face with the gallows, 
but he was keen for a conviction. It 
was the pride of a logician who 
desires to see his carefully-thought- 
out argument endorsed. He was like 
that famous historical dog — the 
pointer who in a game-abounding 
country did his devoir so nobly, but 
whose miserable employer missed 
shot after shot and brought nothing to 
hand. How that animal at last put 
its tail between its legs, roused the 
welkin (whatever that may be) with 
its howl, and fled disgusted to its 
kennel, is it not recorded in the " Lies 
about Dogs," lately published by the 
Society of " Animated Fiction ? " 

Sergeant Usher was much like that 
noble and hardly-tried pointer ; when 
juries refused to "run straight" and 
convict the quarry he had marked 
down and brought to their notice, the 
gallant officer also betook himself to 
his private apartments in deep dud- 
geon, not, as I have already said, 
from any fierce thirst for his victim's 



92 



AT FAULT 



annihilation, but that his carefully- 
worked-out chain of reasoning should 
be deemed inconclusive was gall and 
wormwood. Was it not Hazlitt who 
iaid in reference to the tumultuous 
ending of some stormy disputation, 
''The blow was nothing, and you'll 
admit I had the best of the argu- 
ment " ? That was Sergeant Usher's 
case exactly ; if you refused to put 
faith in his inductive theory he was 
disgusted, but to do him justice no 
man ever was more sceptical of evi- 
dence or sifted it closer, and if that 
done he had satisfied himself, then he 
was unmistakably annoyed if others 
did not arrive at a similar conclusion. 

The Press and the public mean- 
while have no little to say about the 
•lethargy and inefficiency of the police. 
No allowance is made for the diffi- 
culty of tracking a culprit who has 
once gained the shelter of this gigan- 
tic warren of London with its multi- 
plicity of burrows. The hunted deer 
is usually safe when he gains the 
herd, and that is pretty much the case 
of the criminal who has once reached 
the metropolis, always premising two 
things, that he has command of 
money, and is no recognised unit of 
the Bedouins of Babylon, in which 
latter case he suffers under the great 
disadvantage of his haunts, habits, 
and person being known to the police 
in the first place, and the chance of 
being realized by his comrades in the 
second, that is, betrayed for the 
reward. Still the public, and the 
Press as the echo of the public 
thought, are ever feverishly anxious 
for the apprehension of the hero of a 
sensational crime, and no journal has 
yet even hinted that has taken place. 

The sergeant next morning awoke 
clear and cool-headed as ever. 
Having dressed and finished his 
breakfast he sat down to carefully 
study the report of the inquest in the 
morning paper, and as he smoked his 
pipe and thought over this he slowly 
arrived at a definite conclusion. 
Placing the arrest of Foxborough on 
one side, where was there any proba- 
bility of obtaining a clue to the true 
story of this crime ? Was it to be dis- 
covered in Tapton Cottage? He 
thought not ; if Foxborough was the 
murderer he fancied his wife and 



daughter were in complete ignorance 
of any motive that could have pos- 
sibly led to it. No, it was not to 
Tapton Cottage that he must look for 
information. He could hardly expect 
to derive assistance from them in any 
case, but the sergeant came to the 
conclusion that they could tell him 
little even if they would. There were 
four channels he reckoned from 
which it was possible inspiration 
might spring. First and foremost, 
that letter, which had taken John 
Fossdyke to Bunbury, could it but be 
come by ; secondly, he had a strong 
idea that Miss Hyde could tell some- 
thing about James Foxborough if she 
would ; thirdly, he could not help 
imagining that those rooms of the 
Hopbine must be able to tell some- 
thing if closely interrogated. He was 
haunted with the idea that they had 
not as yet been thoroughly investi- 
gated, and yet he himself had exam- 
ined them narrowly ; and, lastly, he 
had a vague idea that the wearisome 
creature Totterdell, as Mr. Usher 
mentally dubbed him, might have 
something of importance to tell, could 
one but get at it ; only to be arrived 
at, thinks the sergeant, by listening to 
some hours of blethering and by 
much judicious questioning. 

It therefore became quite evident 
to Sergeant Usher that Baumborough 
must be his headquarters for the 
present. The apprehension of Fox- 
borough he must leave to his brethren 
as far as London went, but the nice- 
ties of the case he feels convinced are 
only to be worked out through the 
four channels indicated, and he is 
fain to confess that they seem to 
promise but little information. Still, 
the sergeant has unravelled skeins 
tangled as this in his time, when the 
key of the puzzle looked quite as un- 
attainable. He possesses the chief 
qualities of a scientific investigator — 
patience, coolness, and a natural 
faculty for inductive reasoning ; and 
though admitting to himself that 
things do not look promising, resolves 
to start for Baumborough as soon as 
he has conferred with his chiefs in 
Scotland Yard. Sergeant Usher's 
arrangements are speedily made, and 
that evening sees him once more in 
Baumborough. One of the first visits 



SERGEANT USHER VISITS THE HOPBINE 



93 



he pays is to Dr. Ingleby. !!c is ad- 
mitted at once, but the doctor receives 
him with a shake of the head. 

" You have come in the vain hope 
that that letter might have been dis- 
covered, but I am sorry to say it has 
not, and I tell you fairly, that I think 
there is little or no chance of coming 
upon it now. All likely places have 
been closely overhauled without a 
sign of it. Mrs. Fossdyke and Miss 
Hyde, although neither of them read 
it over, were both positive it was quite 
a short note and agree in thinking it 
was probably destroyed. From the 
account of the scene at the breakfast- 
table," continued Dr. Ingleby, " I 
have no doubt you are quite right in 
the estimate you put upon that note. 
It was a good deal more than an 
invitation to dinner, no doubt ; men 
are not agitated in the way poor Foss- 
dyke is described to have been by 
notes of that kind. I presume that if 
he had it about him it would have 
been found at the Hopbine." 

" His clothes and effects, you see, 
sir, were searched by Inspector 
Thresher before I got there ; and 
bear in mind, it was not till I went 
over to Dyke with you that I ever 
heard of that letter. I looked the 
room pretty carefully over, but it is 
true it was more with a view to dis- 
covering some trace of a struggle or 
obtaining some evidence bearing on 
the actual perpetration of the crime. 
It is possible, of course, he may have 
had the letter about him, but I can't 
think Thresher would have over- 
looked it. He may not be a prac- 
tised officer like myself at these 
inquiries, but his search would be 
thorough, and he would be quite able 
to judge of the importance of such a 
document if he had found it. Not 
likely, I'm afraid, we shall come 
across it now, but mark me, doctor, 
that letter would have thrown a good 
deal of light upon this case, which is 
at present as queer a puzzle as ever I 
had set me." 

"Yes," rejoined Dr. Ingleby mus- 
ingly. " What the connection was 
between the two men is at present a 
complete mystery. Still, I recollect 
hearing Totterdell, when we had con- 
siderable discussion about the erec- 
tion of the Baumborough Theatre. 



say that he had heard Fossdyke claim 
to having had much experience ol 
theatrical matters in his younger 
days ; indeed he asked him a ques- 
tion something to the effect at the 
Council one day." 

" Ah ! " ejaculated the sergeant. 

" However, Fossdyke brusquely de- 
clined to answer him. They didn't 
hit it off very well, as you know ?" 

"No; thank you very much for that 
hint, sir. It would quite probably be 
the bond between them " ; and al- 
though the open-hearted sergeant did 
not think that there was any necessity 
for informing Dr. Ingleby of his in- 
tention, he then and there determined 
to attempt the solution of the mystery 
by tracing back John Fossdyke's 
early career. 

"One thing more. Would it be 
possible for me to have a talk with 
Miss Hyde ? " 

" No ; not at present. Besides, 
what can you want with her ? " in- 
quired the doctor in no little aston- 
ishment. 

" Well, I am convinced she knows 
something of James Foxborough. 
Will you question her about him for 
me ? She has said she has never 
seen him, but she has knowledge of 
him in some shape." 

" I have no objection to do that, 
letting her know beforehand that it is 
for your information, mind." 

" Quite so ; quite so ; and now I'll 
say good-night. I'll call in before 
leaving Baumborough to-morrow and 
hear anything you may have to tell 
me. Once more, good-night, sir " ; 
and so saying Sergeant Usher van- 
ished in the darkness. 

He busied himself about Baum- 
borough in that sort of desultory 
fashion in which the sergeant always 
pursued his inquiries. He seemed 
the veriest lounger about, ready to 
gossip with anybody upon any sub- 
ject, or even to drink with any one ; 
but though free enough in the matter 
of paying for other people's liquor, it 
was little Mr. Usher consumed him- 
self. Similarly, though he was ad- 
dicted apparently to holding the most 
idle converse, yet both eye and ear 
were ever on the alert ; and let him 
discourse about trade, politics, horse- 
racing, the weather, or, in a town like 



94 



AT FAULT 



Baumborough, about the price of 
corn or oxen, the talk invariably 
gravitated towards the murder. Mr. 
Usher had no objection to advance 
some vague view of his own upon the 
subject, but noted keenly what other 
people might say. That there was 
much winnowing of chaff inevitable in 
such investigation no one knew better 
than Mr. Usher. No one had a 
keener eye for that grain of evidence 
or information when he crossed it 
than the sergeant, but he had talked 
through many a long day and deemed 
the words of his fellow-men idle. 

Mr. Usher had laid down his pro- 
gramme and intended to adhere 
rigidly to it ; he was by no means 
sanguine, but the four channels from 
which he conceived inspiration with 
regard to the crime might come he 
resolved should be honestly dredged. 
The recovery of the letter seemed 
hopeless ; he had picked up nothing 
more of any use to him in the town ; 
he had only to see whether Dr. Ingle- 
by had been more successful at 
Dyke, and then he was off to Bun- 
bury to spend a night or so at the 
Hopbine. An afternoon with Mr. 
Totterdell he reserved to the last. 
Detective officers are human, and 
may be pardoned for hesitating to 
resort to desperate endeavours in 
their vocation until extremity compels. 

" Well, sir, have you any tidings 
for me ? " asked the sergeant, as he 
entered Dr. Ingleby's library late in 
the afternoon. 

" Yes, in one sense ; but what you 
will, I fancy, term none. I questioned 
Miss Hyde on the subject of James 
Foxborough. She admits she knows 
him by name, and as the proprietor 
of the Syringa Music Hall perfectly 
well, but says she never saw him in 
her life, and cannot connect him in 
any way with Mr. Fossdyke. She 
further declares her knowledge of Mr. 
Foxborough can have no bearing on 
this case and would be excessively 
painful for her to explain." 

" There is no more then to be said, 
sir. I rather fancy I should be a 
better judge than Miss Hyde of how 
far her knowledge of James Fox- 
borough might tend to connect him 
with the deceased, but of course if the 
young lady does not wish to tell what 



she knows, there is nothing so far to 
justify our annoying her. I'm off, so 
we'll say good-bye." 

" Good-bye, Sergeant Usher," re- 
plied the doctor a little crisply. He 
rather liked the sergeant, but he was 
indignant that he should imagine 
Miss Hyde would keep back anything 
that could possibly tend to throw 
light upon the catastrophe they were 
all lamenting. 

" Good sort, the doctor," murmured 
Mr. Usher, when he found himself in 
the street. " Not worth a cent in my 
business, though ; lets his feelings 
run away with him, as if sifting evi- 
dence and feelings could possibly go 
together. That Miss Hyde could 
throw a deal of light on the business, 
I'll bet my life, if she could be per- 
suaded to speak out. She has nothing 
to do with it, nor is she aware that 
what she can testify bears in the 
slightest degree on the affair, but I 
am convinced it does. Now a real, 
good overhaul of the rooms at the 
Hopbine, and then — then, I suppose, 
a long afternoon with that wearisome 
creature Totterdell will have to be got 
through. The only way to get at 
what the likes of him has to say is 
simply to let him talk and give him 
time." 



That .night an elderly gentleman 
pulled up at the door of the Hopbine 
and demanded rooms. He was a 
gentleman apparently of the old 
school, small in stature, formal in 
manner, as well as slightly irritable. 
A curious combination, that even 
awed Mr. Marlinson when he came in 
contact with him. Formal and polite 
in the first instance, but unmistakably 
waspish when he didn't get his own 
way, and he proved hard to satisfy in 
the matter of rooms. They must be 
on the first floor he asserted, and to 
those allotted to him he expressed the 
strongest aversion. At length Mr. 
Marlinson said boldly he should re- 
gret very much not being able to 
accommodate the gentleman, but that 
unless those rooms suited him he had 
no others vacant on that floor, except 
a set just at present out of use. If 
the gentleman ever looked at a paper 
he had no doubt read of the awful 



SERGEANT USHER VISITS THE HOPBINE 



95 



calamity that had befallen the Hop- 
bine, and here Mr. Marlinson paused 
to give the stranger an opportunity of 
condoling with him. 

"You mean," said the old gentle- 
man, "the set in which the murder 
was committed. But I have no super- 
stitions ; interviewed, tried, and hung 
too many murderers in India to have 
any compunctions about apartments 
because some little difference of 
opinion was quietly disposed of in 
them. No, no, my good friend ; in all 
my experience it's the dead men alone 
you can rely upon not turning up 
again. Give them long spells of im- 
prisonment and still the scoundrels 
come before you again, but once dead 
they are done with and bother you no 
more. Let's see the rooms." 

" He ain't a sticker at trifles ap- 
parently," muttered Mr. Marlinson ; 
but at the same time it flashed across 
him what an excellent person the old 
gentleman would be to sit in judg- 
ment on James Foxborough, wher- 
ever he should be laid hands on. 
The new-comer professed himself per- 
fectly satisfied with these rooms, 
ordered a snug little dinner and a fire 
in the sitting-room, remarking that 
long residence in India was apt to 
make one somewhat chilly when once 
more encountering the climate of 
one's native land. It was a raw even- 
ing, and a blaze in the grate was un- 
mistakably cheerful, and Sergeant 
Usher, for, of course, the ci-devant 
Indian judge was that functionary, his 
dinner satisfactorily disposed of, 
thought as he sat sipping his port and 
cracking his walnuts that the Hop- 
bine was a very comfortable and well- 
conducted house. He had metamor- 
phosed himself so as to have an 
unrestricted investigation of the 
rooms, not sanguine about obtaining 
a result by any means, but he wished 
to look these rooms over and pick up 
what he might in the hotel without 
taking the Hopbine into his confi- 
dence. He had not even let Inspec- 
tor Thresher know of his presence, 
but determined to work out this 
business by himself. It might be, 
perhaps, the swagger of a well-known 
London officer, or it might be genuine 
disbelief in his professional colleague, 
but certain it is that the sergeant was 



not prepared to give much credence 
to Inspector Thresher in this business. 

No sooner did he have the room to 
himself than Mr. Usher commenced 
his course of investigation. He had 
questioned the waiter no little during 
dinner concerning the murder, and 
Jenkinson, after the manner of his 
class, was only too delighted to tell 
his story, and readily led into the re- 
lation of all the minor details. Not 
an article in the room but was closely 
scrutinized, and to aid him in his task 
the sergeant drew from his breast- 
pocket a strong magnifying - glass. 
Through this, and even going down on 
his knees for the purpose, he carefully 
examined the carpet and also the furni- 
ture, but no tell-tale stain supported 
the theory of both Dr. Ingleby and 
himself, that it was in that room John 
Fossdyke came by his death. Neither 
on carpet nor furniture could Mr. 
Usher's well-trained eyes detect the 
sign of a struggle nor the deep-hued 
spots he sought. The theory might be 
just, but there was nothing whatever 
to corroborate it. 

Mr. Usher sat down, lit his pipe, 
ordered some spirits and water, and 
proceeded to reflect over the affair 
generally. 

If Fossdyke was killed here, he said 
to himself, either by accident or design, 
it was an uncommonly well-managed 
assassination. Not a trace of it is to 
be found. If he was killed in the bed- 
room, how did it come about ? or is 
it, despite Dr. Ingleby's opinion, a 
mere ordinary case of suicide ? No, 
I don't believe it is a matter of self- 
murder ; that the quarrel should arise 
here, and Foxborough in his anger 
slay him, is intelligible enough, but 
that he should have followed him to 
his bedroom and killed him without 
creating a disturbance seems almost 
incredible. In his sleep, yes, but Mr 
Fossdyke evidently met his death 
before he had undressed, before he 
had hardly begun to throw his clothes 
off. I've no craving to see ghosts, but 
if John Fossdyke's spirit would give 
me a wrinkle to-night I'd be obliged to 
it, and I don't think I'd be too much 
.imitated to take down the evidence. 
However, the sergeant's sleep proved 
as dreamless as a healthy man's after 
a moderate modicum of grog and 



96 



AT FAULT 



tobacco should do. No inspiration 
came to him from the world of shad- 
ows, and as he sprang out of bed next 
day he exclaimed, " The sitting-room 
won't speak ; I wonder whether this 
room will disclose the secret of that 
September evening. The key of the 
door, for instance, if it was suicide, 
where is it ? If it is murder, it may be 
anywhere ; but if the former, it must 
be here," and Mr. Usher began an 
eager and searching investigation of 
the apartment. It was one of the best 
bedrooms in the Hopbine, and so 
somewhat extensively furnished. Not 
an inch of the old-fashioned mahogany 
wardrobe did the sergeant leave un- 
explored ; he turned out the drawers, 
pulling them out and looking behind 
them, seeking principally for this miss- 
ing key. The man had been found 
dead, stabbed to death in his room, 
there was no necessity to prove that 
— but whether it was his own doing or 
another's was matter of grave inquiry, 
and to this fact the sergeant was now 
confining himself, not altogether in- 
capable of noting anything that might 
bear upon the case, but concentrating 
himself, as great scientific discoverers 
usually do, for the time upon the 
one point. He searched the drawers 
of the dressing-table, he moved the 
washing-stand, he moved the bed, he 
felt the carpet all over with his hands 
and bare feet, he withdrew the gaudy- 
cut paper device that masked the fire- 
place, disclosing some few crumpled 
scraps of paper behind it, but no key. 
He peered up the chimney, and even 
felt on either side of the flue, but he 
discovered nothing. He opened the 
window, examined the sill, and took 
the bearings of the flower-bed below. 
Possibly the dead man might have 
thrown the key from thence if he were 
self-slain. Mr. Usher had best con- 
sult the flower-bed on that subject, 
for that seems to be his last chance 
of arriving at the discovery he aims 
at. 

But the sergeant, like many other 
people in earnest, searching for one 
truth discovers another — that it is a 
cold, raw, damp morning, and that 
between an open window, scant cloth- 
ing, and an unsuccessful quest, besides 
the chill of disappointment, he has 
contracted physical shivers. He rings 



the bell and orders the chambermaid 
to light a fire and bring him a cup of 
tea. He a little staggered Eliza Sal- 
ter by the request, fires in September 
being an unheard-of thing in bed- 
rooms in an old conservative house 
like the Hopbine, which rather held 
that there were seasons for fires and 
seasons for fanciful papers on the 
hearth, not to be interfered with by 
trifling variations in the weather. Still 
the eccentricities of travellers were 
wondrous, and of returned Anglo- 
Indians anything might be expected, 
and Bunbury had considerable ex- 
perience of these, the pretty little town 
being much affected by these whilom 
shakers of the pagoda tree. 

Eliza soon returns with both tea 
and kindling, and having placed the 
former on the table, proceeds to clear 
out the grate previous to laying the 
fire. Mr. Usher idly watches her, 
and with his mind still absorbed on 
the mystery of the key, stares vacantly 
at the few scraps of paper the 
chambermaid has raked out and 
which still lie within the fender. Eliza 
quietly continues her work, puts a 
match to the kindling, and is about to 
thrust the above-mentioned paper 
scraps into the grate to assist the new- 
born fire when she is startled out of all 
equilibrium by the crotchety old Indian 
with the asthmatical cough (for such 
had Mr. Usher appeared to her) sud- 
denly exclaiming : " Stop, for your 
life, girl ! Let me see every scrap of 
that paper before you burn it." 

He was but just in time, and as the 
sergeant often said afterwards, when 
alluding to the Bunbury murder case, 
" I can't tell to this minute what put 
the notion into my head." 

The chambermaid pauses, gathers 
the four or five scraps of paper to- 
gether, and hands them over to that 
peremptory old Indian. 

An impatient pshaw, and the ser- 
geant contemptuously throws back to 
Eliza Salter a couple of old washing- 
bills, records of guests long departed ; 
but as he flattens out the third piece of 
crumpled paper, he cannot restrain 
from a slight start, and ejaculating 
with bated breath, " By heavens ! it's 
the letter." 

Yes, there it was, unmistakably 
enough, the note that had brought 



THE SERGEANT PUZZLED 



97 



John Fossdyke to the Hopbine. A 
scrap of paper worth two hundred 
pounds, according to the finder's own 
appraisement, cast carelessly at the 
back of the grate, as a man might 
ordinarily be supposed to do when 
dressing for the feast to which such 
letter invited him, kept up to that 
time in order there should be no mis- 
take about time or date. 

Infallible key to the mystery had 
Mr. Usher pronounced this, could it be 
come by, of which he had abandoned 
all hope ; and now he has got it and 
reads it, the sergeant is fain to confess 
that it is not quite so big a clue as he 
anticipated. A mere scrap of a note ; 
any ordinary invitation to dinner con- 
veyed as much, and it was with a 
puzzied expression that Mr. Usher — 
the chambermaid having departed — 
for the sixth or seventh time read over 
the following : — 

" Hopbine, Septr. 3rd. 
• Dear Fossdyke, 

" Dine with me here to-morrow at 
7.30. I have something rather serious 
to communicate to you concerning our 
last conversation. Circumstances 
have improved my business position 
regarding it considerably. I feel sure 
you will not fail me when you see that 
I am 

" Ever sincerely yours, 

"James Foxborough. 
" Bunbury, Monday night" 

And once more did the sergeant 
come to the conclusion that letter was 
"a rum 'un." Valuable, no doubt, 
and likely, probably, to lead up to 
something in the future, but it was 
rather hard to see "the how" of that 
just now. Meanwhile Mr. Usher 
determined to keep the finding of that 
letter entirely to himself. Nobody 
but Eliza Salter had been present 
when the discovery was made, and 
she had not in the least connected the 
strange gentleman with the murder 
further than he was mighty anxious 
concerning it. An opinion in which 
a comparison of notes with Jenkinson, 
the waiter, confirmed her 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE SERGEANT PUZZLED 

It was difficult to make much out of 
that letter no doubt. Sergeant Usher, 
great as had been his exultation at its 
recovery, was compelled to own him- 
self disappointed at its contents. He 
twisted and tossed it over in his mind 
again and again while he dressed, but 
was fain to confess he as yet saw no 
key to the enigma in that careless, 
laconic epistle. Still no one knew 
better than the sergeant how easy is 
the rendering of a cipher when you 
have once come at the initial letters ; 
a mysterious epistle at present, but 
containing three or four points which 
yet might throw much light on the 
affair when he once learnt to read 
between the lines. That he is pos- 
sessor of this letter is a fact Sergeant 
Usher concludes to keep entirely to 
himself for a little, but in this that in- 
telligent officer considerably over- 
reached himself. 

Eliza Salter might not be an out-of- 
the-way clever girl, but a keen eye for 
surreptitious billet-doux is part and 
parcel of a soubrette's training, if ever 
she may hope to thrive in her vocation. 
Lady's-maid or chambermaid, if she 
don't understand deft passing of notes 
and taking of gold pieces, she is basely 
ignorant of her calling. Thunder- 
struck by the peremptory order of the 
old Indian to hand those scraps of 
paper to him, it was scarcely to be 
supposed that she did not observe, 
busy as she might affect to be over 
the fire, that the old gentleman was 
obviously interested by one that he 
retained. Your astute man is often 
upset by an inferior adversary, whom 
he has held too cheap. It is years ago 
since I saw one of the best billiard- 
markers in London beaten by an 
adversary to whom he had given three- 
fourths of the game, and never 
troubled himself about, till his reckless 
opponent bet him a sovereign on the 
result. Then that marker laid down 
to it, but too late, luck and the free 
style of the play produced on a 
neopliyte by a bottle of old port proved 
too much for him, and the amateur 
won easy. How many millions that 
marker wanted to play it over again 

D 



98 



AT FAULT 



for I forget, but the winner knew 
better than that, and confined himself 
to chaffing his antagonist on what he 
perfectly comprehended was a most 
fluky victory. 

From people coming to see the 
rooms in which the murder had been 
committed, the murder had become the 
epidemic one might say of the Hop- 
bine. Salter confided to Jenkinson 
that the old gentleman had found an 
important paper ; then she confiden- 
tially apprised Gibbons, the boots, of 
tne same ; then she demanded 
sympathy from her auditors on her 
having had courage to light the fire, 
and so gradually paved the way to 
proclaim herself heroine of this im- 
portant discovery, though of what 
this discovery consisted she was en- 
tirely ignorant. In due time the affair 
came to old Joe Martinson's ears, and 
once more was the worthy landlord 
exercised past conception. It couldn't 
perhaps lead to another murder being 
perpetrated at the Hopbine, but 
that another inquest would be held, 
Joe Marlinson thought quite possible. 

" I am going to have it, I tell you, 
Salter ; it's your business to burn up 
odds and ends of that sort, and not 
let old Indian vultures come hopping 
about snaking things like badly- 
brought-up magpies. Look here, Jen- 
kinson, I mean just snuffing this busi- 
ness out at once. I ain't going to have 
the Hopbine converted into a criminal 
court if I know it. When that old 
magpie rings for his breakfast, I'll 
just go up and let him have a bit of 
my mind. He's no more right to steal 
waste paper out of the grate than he 
has tidies off the chairs, or napkins off 
the dinner-table. I'll not stand it ; 
blame me if 1 do. Don't you forget, 
Jenkinson, I'll see to his rolls and 
coffee being hot enough. These re- 
tired Indians, as they are called, are 
• ery intrusive in my opinion." 

Despite his own curiosity, Jenkinson 
was constrained to bow to his master's 
orders, and when the strange gentle- 
man's breakfast was ready, duly ac- 
quainted his master with the fact. It 
was with much pomposity that Mr. 
Marlinson placed the quaint old Queen 
Anne silver coffee-pot on the table. 
The Hopbine was not a little proud of 
its old plate and its old wine, and had 



fair reason in both cases. The returned 
Oriental seemed very oblivious of Mr. 
Marlinson's presence : " Couldn't have 
paid less attention to an under-waiter," 
as that gentleman remarked afterwards 
when narrating the story. 

" That will do, you can put things 
down and go," observed Sergeant 
Usher, still puzzling over that letter, 
and getting fidgety at the way his at- 
tendant buzzed about the room. 

" You'll excuse me, sir, but I've 
got just a trifle to say first. We don't 
like criminal inquiries and inquests 
and such things at the Hopbine. I 
happen to be its proprietor — that is to 
say, the landlord. I suppose you 
understand common sense, I don't 
mean common law, because that's 
expecting a good deal of any one, 
but what you find in the Hopbine 
belongs to the Hopbine, mind, whether 
it's pillow-cases, spoons, or scraps of 
paper. I'm told you've taken pos- 
session of a bit of paper. I am 
not going to put up with that, as 
a matter of simple kindling I 
wouldn't make a fuss about it, but 
if that's going to bring more judges, 
juries, and inquests and riff-raff, I tell 
you I don't mean standing it. Now 
just give me the bit of paper, and 
we will see it burnt all comfortable." 

The sergeant had listened to this 
speech with no little amusement, and 
as a humorist could not resist the 
temptation of giving the autocratic 
landlord of the Hopbine a slight shock. 

" Look here, Joe Marlinson," he 
said, rising, and utterly dropping his 
asthmatic cough and old-fashioned 
courtly manner, " I'm Sergeant Usher 
of the Criminal Investigation Depart- 
ment. You've seen me before, though 
you don't quite tumble to me now. I 
do pretty much as I like wherever my 
duty calls upon me to go. I've got all 
I want out of the Hopbine, and a 
deal more than I expected, and shall 
be off by the twelve train ; but don't 
you talk any more nonsense about 
what may be taken out of the house, 
and what may not be done, to me. 
You've one thing to be grateful 

for " and here the sergeant paused 

for interrogation. 

But old Joe was past that. With 
eyes starting out of his head, and a 
mouth eminently adapted for fly-catch- 



THE SERGEANT PUZZLED 



99 



ing, he stood awaiting what further 
surprise was in store for him. 

" I'm not fool enough," continued 
Mr. Usher, "to suppose I can muzzle 
a whole hotel. I'm going at twelve, 
and you may be thankful I don't take 
you and most of your people with me, 
just to ensure your not talking about 
what you don't understand." 

" Me ! You threaten to take me to 
prison ! " gasped Marlinson. 

Mr. Usher had reckoned up the 
landlord of the Hopbine on his pre- 
vious visit thereto, and it was with an 
amused smile he replied, — 

" No ! don't I tell you I sha'n't ; but 
if you will have these sort of things 
done in your house, you know " 

"There it is — that's the way they 
go on," exclaimed Marlinson excitedly. 
" One might suppose I'd asked the 
scoundrel to come down here throat- 
cutting— that my advertisements ran, 
' To be done away with on the 
premises.' I wish I was dead. I wish 
the old place was burnt down. Once 
I've seen Foxborough hung I'll never 
draw cork nor hand plate again. 
Now, sir, I'm ready. You come here 
as an old Indian judge, and turn 
out to be a thief-catcher. I mean a 
manslayer ; no, I mean a man-catcher. 
No, I don't know what I mean, or who 
anybody is, or where anybody goes 
to. Where's Foxborough? Is it 
Jenkinson ? Is Eliza Salter a disguised 
countess or female poisoner ? Go it, 
put on the handcuffs ! I know no- 
thing about it, but no matter, I'm 
ready : take me, take anything else 
you fancy ! " 

" This comes of quenching excite- 
ment and irritation with noyeau, 
curacjoa, and kiimmel," muttered the, 
sergtant. " Too much taking done 
already, as far as he's concerned." 

" Nonsense, Mr. Marlinson. You've 
had the mischance to have a man killed 
in your house. A temporary annoy- 
ance, no doubt, but still you may safely 
say about over now. You will be 
troubled no more, probably, except to 
give evidence on the trial, and you 
know very well not the faintest sus- 
picion ever attached to any one of your 
people." 

" I'm worried out of my life. People 
come here, and no matter where you 
put sm, you can't convince 'em it isn't 



the room in which the murder took 
place, and if you do succeed in doing 
that then they want to see the room 
where the murder was committed at 
once. I tell you what it is, sergeant, 
I've come to well-nigh telling them, at 
times, there was no murder on the 
bill of fare to-night, but no one can 
say what will be served up for supper. 
I knew poor Mr. Fossdyke well, and 
many a dinner he's ate in this house ; 
but that, as far as my memory serves, 
was both the first and last bed ever he 
engaged. I'll never get right, Mr. 
Usher, till the trial's done. I can't sleep 
and I can't rest, and I can't do with- 
out more drink than is good for me." 

And here Mr. Marlinson sat down, 
leaned his head upon his hand, and 
appeared the very picture of dejection. 

" Now, look here, Mr. Marlinson," 
said the sergeant, clapping him on the 
shoulder, a sign of encouragement to 
which the landlord of the Hopbine 
responded to by hastily holding forth 
his hands. " Nonsense ! what a noddy 
you're making of yourself. I neither 
want to arrest nor place the bracelets 
on you,", answered Mr. Usher, in re- 
sponse to this gesture. " I'm off" to 
town, as I said before, by the midday 
train. I've found something of im- 
portance here, I don't mind admit- 
ting. I'm a candid outspoken man 
myself, never seeing any good 
come of mysteries, and, as all the hotel 
knows it, I don't object to acknowledg- 
ing it's a letter of some consequence. 
If I don't tell you more, it's only to 
save you knowing. This will be all 
over Baumborough before evening ; all 
over London by to-morrow morning. 
Everybody will come to you ; they 
will say Mr. Marlinson knows all 
about it. And you can reply, ' Right 
you are, I do. Sergeant Usher con- 
fided the whole thing to me, but, mark 
you, it was in strict confidence, and 
my lips are sealed.' Now, Marlinson, 
we understand each other. Good-bye, 
and God bless you. Send up the bill, 
please. I'll just put up my traps and 
then I'm off." 

Joe Marlinson descended to his 
sanctum, the bar parlour, much molli- 
fied. Facts as personified by Sergeant 
Usher had proved too strong for him, 
but it had been a soothing of his 
ruffled plumes to think he was the 



too 



Al FAULT 



sole confidant of that eminent officer 
concerning the latest discovery bear- 
ing on the great Bunbury murder, and 
it was not till many hours after the 
sergeant's departure that old Joe 
thoroughly became cognizant of 
the fact that he had been told nothing. 

Candid very was Mr. Usher, but 
his candour a little resembled the razors 
of the old story, that were made not to 
shave but to sell. Sergeant Usher on 
his way to London turns the letter over 
and over again in his mind. He has as 
yet made nothing out of it, but is 
still firmly convinced the key to the 
enigma is in his breast pocket — a key 
in cipher, it is true, key of which 
cipher has yet to be come by ; but 
that, in the eyes of this experienced 
tracker of crime, is a mere question of 
time and detail. A few weeks and he 
will show who committed this murder, 
and why. What perplexed him more 
than anything was the complete dis- 
appearance of Foxborough ; that they 
should not be able to lay hands upon 
him was nothing, but after leaving 
Bunbury station he seemed to have 
vanished from the face of the earth. 

Evening papers must be sold, the 
public in these times likes its news 
highly spiced, or, to use a phrase of 
the day, is greedy of " intensified in- 
telligence." Consequently the special 
editions found it necessary to continu- 
ally furnish problematic reports about 
Foxborough ; rumours of his arrest 
being imminent, wild details of his 
life and so on flowed freely from Fleet 
Street, that great emporium of all our 
latest information, and in the race 
ofcompetition it is small cause for won- 
der that Fleet Street at times gets a 
little loose in its latest intelligence. 
Concerning the antecedents of Mr. 
Foxborough, it was undoubtedly at 
variance, as also with regard to what had 
become of him, and the public were 
served up nightly with what the public 
dearly love — fresh and well-spiced 
foodforspeculation ; the Theatine Club 
being by no means sole monopolist of 
romantic history concerning the 
fugitive. 

That terrible endorser of a man's 
criminality, a reward of two hundred 
pounds for the apprehension of James 
Foxborough, now covers the walls, 
especially in the vicinity of police 



stations, and looms prominent in the 
papers. To have a price set upon 
one's head may be difficult to realize 
for most of us, but it cannot be cal- 
culated to induce faith in our fellow- 
creatures. It is reverting to those primi- 
tive times when the discovery of any 
one or anything on his trail made man 
decidedly uncomfortable, to the days 
when he was as often hunted as hunt- 
ing, when the selection of the fittest 
was still undetermined, and whether 
our supposed ancestors, the anthro- 
poid apes, or the bigger cats, such as 
tigers, etc., became lords of the world 
doubtful ; our superior intelligence 
to this hour being in great measure 
marked by our superior capabilities of 
destruction. 

The more Sergeant Usher thought 
over that letter the more resolved he 
was to keep it to himself, as far as 
possible for the present. That it 
would not only be all over Bunbury 
but probably be in the papers, thai 
important documentary evidence had 
been discovered at the Hopbine, was 
to be looked for, but the sergeant 
felt pretty confident that, except him- 
self and Foxborough, there was no 
living soul aware of the contents of 
that note. There was one fact about 
it desirable to establish as quickly as 
possible, and that was its being in the 
fugitive's handwriting, and the ser- 
geant felt a little puzzled as to where 
to go to establish that identification. 
He was, however, a man accustomed 
to settle such problems rapidly, and a 
day or two after his return to town be- 
took himself to the Syringa Music 
Hall, and asked to see Mrs. Fox- 
borough. Not only was the sergeant, 
# of course, perfectly aware that a wife 
could give no evidence against her 
husband, but he was also essentially a 
considerate man in his vocation ; 
ruthless, it might be, to the professed 
criminal, but in cases like the present 
always anxious to spare the feelings 
of the unfortunate's relatives as much 
as might be. The espionage kept over 
Tapton Cottage by his subordinates 
had made him conversant with Mrs. 
Foxborough's present habits. 

He knew that she went to the 
Syringa no more than was absolutely 
necessary for looking after the busi- 
ness details of that establishment, and 



THE SERGEANT PUZZLED 



101 



that her visit invariably took place in 
the morning, still he asked for Mrs. 
Foxborough to make quite certain 
she was not there. Informed of that 
fact, he demanded to see Mr. Slant, 
the stage-manager, and was forthwith 
informed out of hand that gentleman 
was engaged, and could see nobody. 

"Just so, my flippant young friend," 
rejoined the sergeant drily; "but 
take that note round to him, and 
you'll find he'll see me, and mind if 
he don't get it pretty sharp, and 
happens to hear by post I called this 
evening, he'll see you, my chick, to- 
morrow, and you'll find the interview 
more lively than agreeable." 

The quiet consciousness of power 
with which the sergeant delivered his 
speech somewhat overawed the young 
gentleman in the ticket-office, and he 
condescended to despatch a myrmi- 
don with the note. It contained no- 
thing but the sergeant's official card — 

Sergeant Silas Usher, 

Criminal Investigation Department, 

Scotland Yard, 

with pencilled at the bottom, "desires 
to see you as soon as possible." Mr. 
Slant knows that the law is not to be 
coquetted with, and is, moreover, 
smitten with that curiosity respecting 
the Bunbury murder which has al- 
ready laid such violent hold upon the 
public. " Ask the gentleman to step 
this way at once," is his prompt re- 
sponse. He welcomes Mr. Usher 
cordially ; to stand well with police 
officials is matter of policy with all 
places of public entertainment, but 
essentially when your license depends 
on that incomprehensible body the 
Middlesex magistrates, the why or 
wherefore of whose decisions defy 
forecast or scrutiny. 

" Take a chair, Mr. Usher. You've 
come no doubt about something con- 
nected with this terrible business 
down at Bunbury with which our 
' boss ' is unhappily mixed up. Kind- 
hearted man, Mr. Usher, and I can't 
believe it of him, although we didn't 
see much of him here." 

This was mere looseness of ex- 
pression on Mr. Slant's part, and was 
not to be taken as laying down the 
argument that attendance at music- 
halls strengthens one against an in- 



fringement of the sixth command- 
ment. 

" It's cut up the Mistress terrible ; 
a bright, cheerful woman she is 
naturally, with a merry word and 
good-natured smile for every one ; 
kind-heartea, too, with any of them 
here as gets into trouble, and we've 
lazy limmers amongst us who impose 
on her not a little, and would more, 
business woman as she is, if I didn't 
interfere a bit. But what is it you 
want ? " 

"Do you know James Foxborough's 
signature when you see it ? " inquired 
the sergeant curtly. 

" Certainly. I have seen it many 
times, although the cheques are more 
often signed by Mrs. Foxborough. 
They bank at the London and West- 
minster ; whether they've separate 
accounts or not I can't say." 

"Very good, now," said Mr. Usher, 
taking an envelope from his breast- 
pocket, and producing therefrom a 
paper peculiarly folded and laying it 
on the table "is that James Fox- 
borough's signature?" 

Nothing of the epistle but the sub- 
scriber's name was visible. 

Mr. Slant looked at it for an in- 
stant and then replied, " I should say 
undoubtedly not." 

" Feel pretty positive, I suppose ? " 
observed the sergeant with a slight 
interrogatory elevation of his eye- 
brows. 

"Yes," replied the stage manager, 
" I don't believe that to be signed by 
James Foxborough. Take it to the 
London and Westminster Bank and 
see what they think of it. Is that a 
document of supposed importance ? " 

" Dear me, no," rejoined candid 
Mr. Usher, "no bearing upon the 
case. I should fancy none whatever ; 
might have had, though, undoubtedly, 
if it had been proved genuine. It's a 
mere plant, I dare say. Bless you, 
we always encounter bits of fun on 
these occasions, more from mere mis- 
chief than any attempt of the ac- 
cused's friend to mislead us. Good- 
night, Mr. Slant. I hope this unfor- 
tunate affair has not interfered with 
the fortunes of the Syringa." 

" It seems a cruel thing to say, ser- 
geant, but it's a fact all the same. 
We've never done such business. The 



102 



AT FAULT 



murder seems to have been the most 
tremendous advertisement we ever 
had. What the deuce they come for 
it's impossible to say. They can 
hardly expect Foxborough, with ^200 
offered for his apprehension, to ap- 
pear, and it is not very likely his wife, 
poor thing, would do so either under 
the circumstances ; but they come, 
Mr. Usher, as if," continued the stage- 
manager, dropping his voice, " we 
were doing the murder here nightly." 

" I can quite understand it. Mark 
me," repeated the sergeant, " in a big 
criminal case we could always let the 
whole court off in stalls at two guineas 
a-piece easy. Yes, we've put down 
cock-fighting and prize-fighting, but 
the taste exists, only it takes another 
form of gratifying itself. Good-night." 

The bull at the stake, the captive 
before the lion, the murderer at bay 
in the dock, there is much similarity 
in all these, and Imperial London, 
despite all our brag of civilization, 
seems to have much the tastes of 
Imperial Rome. Sergeant Usher, as 
he wended his way to Spring Gar- 
dens, was lost in deepest cogitation. 
He had treated Mr. Slant's non-recog- 
nition of James Foxborough's signa- 
ture as a thing of no consequence, 
and for which he was quite prepared ; 
but, in reality, he had never been 
much more astonished. That this 
identical note was what took Foss- 
dyke to Bunbury he'd no doubt. If 
Foxborough did not write it, who on 
earth did ? Was there somebody else 
mixed up in the business ? It evi- 
dently was going to be, as he had 
first suspected, a more complicated 
affair than it appeared. He would 
submit that signature to the London 
and Westminster Bank, but he had 
little doubt that Mr. Slant's opinion 
would be confirmed. 



CHAPTER XIX 

JOHN FOSSDYKE'S AFFAIRS 

" How are you, doctor ? " said Phil 
Soames, as he made his way into the 
familiar sanctum to which he had 
been a privileged intruder for many a 
year. 



" Ah, Phil ! " exclaimed Dr. Ingle- 
by, looking up from a mass of papers 
with which he was apparently wrest- 
ling, " I am very glad to see you. I 
suppose there is no fresh news about 
this terrible business ? " 

" None. Foxborough is either ly- 
ing concealed in London, or ha£ fled 
the country, I should imagine. At all 
events there is no news of him what- 
ever. The police seem baffled at 
present. Turn me out if I am inter- 
rupting you." 

" Not a bit ; glad to see you, what- 
ever brings you." 

" Well, I called chiefly to ask after 
poor Mrs. Fossdyke and Miss Hyde. 
Of course I've left my card and in- 
quired at Dyke ; but I have seen 
nobody, and you, probably, have seen 
them." 

" Yes," replied the doctor, " and 
Mrs. Fossdyke, now that she has got 
over the first shock, bears it better 
than I anticipated. Miss Hyde, I 
think, seems the more thoroughly up- 
set of the two. By the way, I used to 
fancy, Phil, you were a little sweet in 
that quarter," and here Dr. Ingleby 
eyed his companion somewhat keenly. 

" I not only was, but am," replied 
the young man doggedly. 

"Ah, then, perhaps, it is just as 
well you should hear what I have to 
tell you. Bessie Hyde is a sweet 
girl, and much too good to be made a 
fool of." 

"You needn't tell me that," inter- 
rupted Phil somewhat roughly. 

" Ah, but you probably have mis- 
taken ideas regarding her. Firstly, 
that she is the adopted daughter of 
the Fossdykes." 

" I am under no mistaken im- 
pression of that nature," rejoined 
Phil slowly. " I asked her to marry 
me some time back. She was very 
careful to disabuse my mind on that 
point then, and told me she was 
nothing but Mrs. Fossdyke's paid 
companion." 

" And what, pray, was the result of 
that conversation ?" 

" She declined the honour," replied 
Phil, " saying there were unsurmount- 
able obstacles, that unless she could 
tell me the story of her past life, it 
was impossible ; that she had not the 
courage to do that ; and, finally, 



JOHN FOSSDYKE' § AFFAIRS 



J 03 



though she didn't exactly say so, gave 
me to understand poor Fossdyke was 
acquainted with her whole history." 

" Curious," said Dr. Ingleby, as he 
called to mind Sergeant Usher's 
dictum, that Miss Hyde could prob- 
ably throw light upon this mysterious 
affair if she would tell what she knew 
about James Foxborough, little as she 
might think it. " Still, Phil, there is 
one thing more you had better know. 
You may fancy that Miss Hyde, al- 
though not nominally an adopted 
daughter, is likely to succeed eventu- 
ally to the bulk of what John Foss- 
d>ke has left?" 

" I have never thought about it," 
replied Philip quietly. 

" Well, it will come rather as a sur- 
prise to Baumborough, but as one of 
his executors I have of course been 
looking into his affairs now the 
funeral is over, and it looks to me 
very much as if he has left very little 
indeed behind him. I can't under- 
stand it, and we haven't quite got to 
the bottom of things yet, but it looks 
to me as if even the biggest half of 
Mrs. Fossdyke's fortune has dis- 
appeared. 1 am afraid she will be 
found to have been left very poorly 
off. That she will have to give up 
Dyke, and either sell it or let it, is I 
think certain." 

" You do amaze me," rejoined 
Soames. " Not that it makes the 
slightest difference to me. I mean to 
marry Bessie if I can, and don't expect 
her to bring me anything, but I am 
very sorry indeed for Mrs. Fossdyke ; 
giving up Dyke will come very hard 
upon her. Do you think I might 
venture to call ? " 

" Yes, do, it will do them good ; 
rouse them up a bit, especially Miss 
Hyde. You evidently don't deem her 
answer conclusive, and putting money 
considerations on one side, you will 
be a lucky fellow, Phil, if you win her. 
She's a special favourite of mine." 

" I have got her mysterious past to 
get at first. I don't believe the bug- 
bear she torments herself with to be 
of the slightest consequence in reality ; 
but to discover it is the difficulty. I 
shall say good-bye for the present, 
and walk out to Dyke." 

Arrived there at the expiration of 
half an hour, Philip sent in his name, 



and hoped the ladies would see him. 
Poor Mrs. Fossdyke looked very sad 
in her sombre draperies, and evidently 
felt her loss acutely ; the remembrance 
that she had not been quite as good a 
wife to him who was gone as she 
might have been of late was a subject 
of bitter regret, and she thought 
ruefully over that passage of arms on 
the subject of Bessie Hyde which had 
been in truth the severest quarrel of 
her married life. She had done her 
best to make up for it, but felt her 
husband had never been quite the 
same man afterwards. He had 
always worn an absent, preoccupied 
look, as if worried with business 
cares or difficulties. Her penitence 
for that momentary abandoning of 
herself to her godfather's insidious 
counsel had made her marvellously 
tender to Bessie ever since. Fond of 
the girl she had always been, and it 
was nothing but curiosity concerning 
her antecedents, fanned into a flame 
by the irrepressible Totterdell, that 
had led her to play the part she had. 
Since her husband's death she and 
Bessie sorrowed for him together, and 
the girl had become inexpressibly 
dear to her. 

She rose with a faint smile to wel- 
come Philip. 

" You were always such a favourite 
with dear John," she said, as they 
shook hands. " It would have been 
hard to lose him at any time, but that 
he should come to such a violent 
death is too dreadful." 

" I am sure the whole town and 
country sympathize with you in your 
terrible trial, Mrs. Fossdyke, and the 
most heartfelt regret and pity is every- 
where expressed for your poor hus- 
band's sad fate," replied Phil ; and 
then he turned and greeted Miss 
Hyde. 

Bessie looked very pale, and her 
lip shook a little as she faltered forth 
her welcome. 

Then Mrs. Fossdyke began to tell 
Philip of her plans for the future. " I 
mean to go away," she said " in about 
a fortnight, to some quiet seaside 
place— change will be good for both 
of us ; everything here reminds us of 
all we have gone through lately, and 
him who has gone. I have never 
dared to look into the study since that 



104 



AT FAULT 



evening when I came and found 
you with Bessie, and little dreamt 
what you had come over to break to 
us." 

"Saddest errand ever I was sent 
upon, but I deemed it best you should 
not be left to learn such awful intelli- 
gence by accident ; and news of that 
kind spreads like wild-fire." 

" Both you and Dr. Ingleby were 
everything that was kind and consid- 
erate ; indeed, everybody has been 
that." 

" I hope we have all done what 
little we could, but then it is so little. 
I trust they may not trouble you much 
on the trial, but it is possible, Mrs. 
Fossdyke, remember, that your evi- 
dence will be deemed necessary. I 
mention this now so that you may 
accustom yourself to the idea." 

" They have apprehended Mr. Fox- 
borough?" then asked Bessie anxiously. 

"No," replied Soames ; "so far, I 
believe, the police have no trace of 
him whatever." 

" I could almost hope they might 
not find him," now observed Mrs. 
Fossdyke in a low voice, " nothing 
can give me my John back again, and 
I confess I dread the idea of appear- 
ing in a court of law." 

" You may rest quite assured that 
you will be spared all possible pain, 
and be treated with the greatest con- 
sideration, and you also, Miss Hyde." 

"They cannot possibly want to 
question me," exclaimed Bessie. " I 
can tell them nothing." 

" It is quite open to question 
whether they will require either of 
you ; at all events, the criminal is not 
caught as yet," said Soames, rising. 
" Will you walk with me as far as the 
gate, Miss Hyde ? A little fresh air 
would do you good, I'm sure." 

For a few seconds Bessie hesitated, 
and poor Mrs. Fossdyke faltered out, 
" You've nothing dreadful to tell to- 
night surely, Mr. Soames ? If so, let 
me hear it at once." 

" Nothing, I assure you. I can say 
all I have to say here If Miss Hyde 
wishes." 

"I will walk with you to the gate," 
interposed Bessie hastily. " I'll run 
and get my hat." 

Phil Soames wished Mrs. Fossdyke 
good-bye, and in another minute he 



and Miss Hyde were strolling slowly 
down the drive. Bessie looked very 
handsome in her dark robes ; mourn- 
ing suits a brunette invariably, and 
the trouble of the last few days had 
thrown a languor around her brilliant 
beauty that was infinitely bewitching. 

" I want to know if you are still 
resolute not to tell me what it is 
stands between us ? You pretty well 
know poor Fossdyke meant to have 
done so. Be generous, Bessie ; I 
love you so dearly that I ought to be 
allowed to judge whether the obstacle 
you talk of is insurmountable." 

" More so, Philip, than ever," replied 
the girl, turning away her head. 

" Do you mean that poor Fossdyke's 
death has still further increased the 
impediment?" 

" Yes. Philip, you must think of 
me no more. I have walked down 
here with you on purpose to say this 
in common justice to you, to again 
thank you for the honour you have 
done me, and to tell you that, though 
I acknowledge you have won my 
heart, my giving myself to you is now 
more impossible than ever ! " 

" Will you let Mrs. Fossdyke be 
judge?" 

" Great heavens, no ! She of all 
women must never know my story 
now." 

" Would you let Dr. Ingleby judge 
between us ?" 

" No ! I tell you, Philip, we must part. 
Good-bye , and God bless you," and 
with a quick little nod, Bessie turned 
abruptly and sped back to the house. 



CHAPTER XX 

"kisses and consolation" 

Herbert Morant snatched some- 
thing to eat after the inquest was 
concluded, and made his way to 
London by the same train as Sergeant 
Usher. He had noticed him at the 
Hopbine, and again on the platform, 
but had no idea of who he was. Phil 
Soames didn't know the detective by 
sight, neither did Ellen Maitland, and 
with the exception of Dr. Ingleby, to 
whom Phil had introduced him, those 



" KJSSES AND CONSOLATION ' 



105 



were the sole acquaintances that 
Herbert had in Baumborough ; the 
doctor in his worldly wisdom thought 
it best to make no parade of his 
acquaintance with Mr. Usher, and 
raised himself considerably in the 
sergeant's estimation by such laudable 
reticence. 

Arrived in town, Morant took Ellen 
under his charge, put her into a cab, 
and, jumping in beside her, drove out 
to Tapton Cottage. Mrs. Foxborough 
herself opened the door to them, and, 
though she carried herself bravely, 
there was a slight quiver about the 
mouth and fidgety nervousness in her 
manner that betrayed her extreme 
anxiety. She was a proud, passionate 
woman, with all the immense self- 
controlled power that such women 
invariably possess up to a certain 
point, but who, when the barrier of 
their pride once breaks down, are 
reckless of all considerations but their 
own wild impulses. 

" Go down, Ellen, at once, and get 
something to eat. I'm sure, poor 
girl, it's been a hard day for you as 
for us. No, don't protest, and don't 
cry. I know very well you wouldn't 
say one syllable against me or mine if 
you could help it. Go now." 

" But, missus," said the girl, half 
sobbing, " they made me say I'd seen 
the dagger before. I was obliged to 
do it ; indeed I was." 

Mrs. Foxborough gave a slight 
start, but mastering herself by a 
strong effort said quietly, " You were 
obliged to tell the truth, Ellen, of 
course. I'll hear your story to- 
morrow. Go now, get your supper 
and then be off to bed as soon as 
they will let you." 

Mrs. Foxborough knew too well 
that the cook and her own maid had 
to have their curiosity satisfied before 
Ellen would be permitted to seek her 
chamber. 

" Now, Mr. Morant," she continued, 
" come into the drawing-room and tell 
us all. I say us, for Nid insists upon 
knowing everything. She says sus- 
pense is the least endurable form of 
agony, and I think she is perhaps 
right ; at all events it is useless to 
keep her in ignorance, poor child, 
any longer. She claims her right to 
share our great sorrow, and as I 



cannot spare it her, I feel I have no 
longer the right to refuse. I tell you 
that, Mr. Morant, in order that you may 
feel no reticence in speaking before her." 

As she finished they entered the 
drawing-room, and Nid, springing 
from a low chair by the table, ex- 
claimed eagerly, "Oh! Herbert, what 
have you to tell us? Mamma wouldn't 
let me come to the door with her, but 
I am to hear everything, everything." 

" Mr. Morant has been told that, 
darling. Sit down and try to bear his 
tidings as bravely as you can," replied 
Mrs. Foxborough. 

" 1 bring no good news for you, I 
am sorry to say, but rest satisfied, I 
am going to tell you the whole 
truth — it would be useless to do other- 
wise, for every paper will contain the 
whole story to-morrow morning, and 
the later evening ones have most of it 
to-night. It is a verdict against your 
husband to its fullest extent ; but 
mind, though the evidence was per- 
haps enough to warrant that to a 
coroner's jury, the facts against him 
are curiously slight." 

Mrs. Foxborough leant against the 
mantelpiece as a slight shiver ran 
through her frame, but her head kept 
its habitual proud pose, and she looked 
Morant steadily in the face. As for 
Nid, she cowered in her chair, listen- 
ing to the narrative with flushed cheeks 
and tearful lashes, looking like a 
crushed flower in her abandon. 

" Your husband's extraordinary 
absence ! The fact that he asked 
Mr. Fossdyke to dinner, and was 
recognised by him under the name 
of Foxborough, and — and " 

Here for the life of him Herbert 
could not master a choking sensation 
in his throat, as he looked upon the 
two sorely-tried women before him. 

" Go on, quick," exclaimed Mrs. 
Foxborough in a low tone. 

" And," continued Herbert, " the 
singular coincidence that the weapon 
with which Fossdyke was slain was 
either that dagger which I've often 
played with in this very room, or its 
exact counterpart, constitutes the 
whole evidence against him." 

" That Eastern poignard, the one 
he used as a paper knife, why if it 
isn't here it must be in James's own 
room." cried Mrs. Foxborough, as she 



1 06 



AT FAULT 



glanced nervously round the tables. 
" Quick, Nid, get a light, child, and 
let's find it." 

" Stop, please, for one moment," 
cried Morant. " Ellen was obliged 
to confess she did not remember see- 
ing it the last week or so, though she 
could not say that she had missed it ; 
but she, like me, recognised the dagger 
produced. Dear Mrs. Foxborocgh, 
this has been a cruel, trying day to 
you. Take my advice, aud endeavour 
to get a good night's rest, and search 
for that dagger to-morrow." 

" A good night's rest," she rejoined 
almost contemptuously, "do you sup- 
pose I have known that since this 
horrible charge against my husband 
was first bruited abroad ? " 

" I fear not," he murmured, struck 
even as she spoke with the ravages 
the last few days had worked in her 
handsome face. 

" No, nor do you suppose I can 
sleep to-night till I have sought the 
house through for that miserable toy. 
I should be false to my dear husband 
if I failed in anything that might aid 
him in his need. Good-night, Mr. 
Morant, you have been a loyal friend 
to us this day"; and Mrs. Foxborough 
extended her hand. " Come and see 
us again soon." 

" Good-night," replied Herbert, 
clasping it warmly ; and then turning 
to Nid, who had risen to bid him fare- 
well, he folded her suddenly in his arms 
and imprinted a warm kiss upon her 
lips. " I claim her for weal and woe, 
Mrs. Foxborough," he said apologetic- 
ally, "and shall never believe, let them 
prove what they will, that if Fossdyke 
unfortunately did meet his fate at 
your husband's hands, it was any- 
thing other than the result of a sudden 
and quite unpremeditated quarrel." 

" Bless you for that, Mr. Morant," 
exclaimed Mrs. Foxborough, as her 
face flushed with pleasure at the young 
man's loyal suggestion. " Nid is not 
likely to think worse of you for the 
way you stand by us in our troubles. 
Once more, good-night," and with 
another pressure of the hand from 
his hostess, and a kiss blown to him 
by Nid, Herbert Morant was dis- 
missed. 

He mused a good deal as he made 
his way home over this incomprehen- 



sible murder. There were plenty of 
others fascinated by the attractions of 
a great crime, who, though having 
nothing but an abstract interest in 
it, were quite as much absorbed in 
speculation concerning it as Morant 
could be. His remark to Mrs. Fox- 
borough was significant that his faith 
was in some measure shaken in Fox- 
borough's innocence. It would have 
been noted by a close observer that 
though Morant still staunchly refused 
to admit that the luckless lessee of 
the Syringa was a murderer, he con- 
ceded the fact that he migb r have 
been guilty of manslaughter. To his 
mind that dagger was conclusive 
evidence ; he knew the toy so well, 
he had fiddled with it too often in the 
drawing-room at Tapton Cottage to 
feel any doubt about its identity, and 
how could it be in the hands of any 
one else but Foxborough, and was it 
not conclusively shown that Fox- 
borough was the man who had asked 
John Fossdyke to dinner, and with 
whom he had dined ? 

Morant, though he had been called 
to the Bar, had never studied law nor 
that preliminary the law of evidence. 
His conclusions were precisely those 
to which a considerable portion of the 
public had equally arrived, although a 
numerous section held to the theory 
of truculent, deliberate, cold-blooded 
assassination. In cases of this kind 
the culprit is tried nightly at the clubs 
according to the evidence in the even- 
ing papers, and though " the sports o\ 
the Coliseum" would be deemed 
accursed of modern society, yet gam- 
bling on a man's life has always its 
votaries, and there is usually some 
wagering on the verdict when a great 
criminal is on his trial. 

Then Morant's thoughts took 
another turn, and he thought how 
pretty Nid had looked in her blushes 
and confusion at his sudden embrace, 
and he vowed, happen what might, 
he'd be staunch to the girl, let what 
may be her father's fate ; even if he 
had the misfortune to be shriven at 
the foot of the leafless tree. What a 
terrible business this murder was ! 
Here was poor old Phil Soames all 
upset ; not only were Herbert's fiattcde 
and her mother suffering agonies re- 
flecting iu some extent upon him, but 



K/SSES AND CONSOLATION' 



107 



all his schemes for a start in the 
world were left in abeyance, and yet 
Herbert knew that starting late in life, 
as he was, there was no time to be 
lost in beginning. His love for Nid 
had transformed this man. For the 
first time in his life he was anxious to 
be up and doing ; he, who had always 
pitied the getting up and derided the 
doing of most people — and undoubt- 
edly it was the lot of many of his 
associates who rose early to do so of 
compulsion and to very little purpose 
— was most anxious to buckle to hard 
u-u'k on his own account. But he 
was bound to wait ; without Phil 
Soames' advice he could not see in 
what direction to make a start, and 
there was one consolation in the mean- 
time, that Mrs. Foxborough and Nid 
really did at present require his advice 
and assistance in some measure. 
They had told him they should be 
always glad to see him in their 
troubles, and there was no doubt 
that he could bring them intelligence 
it would be difficult for them in their 
retirement to come by. That a man 
desperately in love, and also moved 
to the sincerest pity for the family of 
the lady of his adoration in their 
sorrow, should feel it his duty to 
console and comfort may be easily 
understood, and so despite that in- 
ward prompting that it behoved him 
to bend his neck to the yoke without 
more delay, Herbert Morant recon- 
ciled himself to the decrees of fate, 
and resolved to take care as far as 
he could of Nid and her mother for 
the present. 

During the next week the papers 
were rife with reports of the usual 
imbecilities that invariably follow 
upon the comrnission of a great 
crime. Provincial constables arrest 
harmless individuals moving about 
in pursuance of their usual avocations 
upon no grounds whatever but that 
they are strangers, and that in the 
eyes of the rural police their ways, 
like those of the heathen Chinee, are 
peculiar. The average number of 
good-for-nothing inebriates, becoming 
dimly conscious that they have 
forfeited all right of existence, in 
moments of deep despondency give 
themselves up as the murderer of 
John Fossdyke, and having had 



sobriety shaken into them by en- 
forced abstinence and ammonia, 
whiningly plead drunken ignorance 
of what they had been talking about. 
Scotland Yard is inundated with 
senseless letters, and new-comers in 
suburban neighbourhoods find the 
neighbourhood's eye emphatically 
upon them- Scotland Yard, as per- 
sonified by Sergeant Usher, keeps 
its own counsel, and that illustrious 
individual, in bursts of unwonted 
candour, confides to himself that " it's 
a rum 'un." 

Every day does Herbert make his 
way out to Tapton Cottage, and that 
there he is warmly welcomed by Mrs. 
Foxborough and Nid may be easily 
imagined. That he is looked upon 
as engaged to the latter now is matter 
of course ; even Mrs. Foxborough no 
longer affects to treat it as an arrange- 
ment of the future, whatever the 
marriage may be ; but Herbert can- 
not help noticing how this terrible 
suspense is telling on Mrs. Fox- 
borough. The defiant, handsome face 
begins to look sadly worn, and even 
a silver thread or two is visible in the 
rich chestnut tresses. Not much to 
be wondered at, when one remembers 
this woman loves her husband very 
dearly, and sees no way of rebutting 
the terrible crime laid to his charge. 
She has had no word of him for 
weeks ; that is nothing, she is used 
to that. She has often before been 
as long without hearing from him, 
but then this is different. If alive 
and in England, it is impossible he 
can be ignorant of the terrible accusa- 
tion against him of that dreadful 
verdict— Wilful murder. Absurd in 
these days of papers perpetual, of 
telegrams, and of instantaneous dif- 
fusion of news, real, false, or mixed, 
what might be termed half-and-half or 
embellished facts ; absurd to suppose 
a man could possibly be ignorant of 
such a charge hanging over him ; 
and gradually Mrs. Foxborough, whc 
scoffed at any idea of her husband's 
guilt, had arrived at the conclusion 
that he also had come to an untimely 
end. She pretended to give no 
explanation of the Bunbury tragedy, 
but she remarked sadly to Herbert, 
" If my husband were alive he would 
come forward at once to confute this 



ro8 



AT FAULT 



miserable accusation, I tell you. 
Well, if that is not so, how is it 
the police cannot find him ? I feel 
certain that he is dead. I cannot 
tell you why — one can never account 
for a presentiment, but I feel that he 
is dead. How ? where ? why ? I can 
no more attempt to explain than who 
it was that killed poor Mr. Fossdyke, 
but that all this will be unfolded in 
due course I entertain no doubt." 

" I am getting dreadfully unhappy 
about mamma," said Nid one after- 
noon, when Mrs. Foxborough had 
retired to her own room, and left the 
young people in undisputed possession 
of the drawing-room. " She suffers 
terribly. She keeps up and wears a 
plucky face and undaunted front to 
the world generally, but oh ! Herbert, 
she breaks down terribly at night ! I 
hear her pacing up and down her 
room like a wild thing, and the other 
night I stole down upon her. She 
turned upon me quite fierce, asked 
what I was doing up at that hour, and 
ordered me peremptorily to bed. But 
I wasn't going to have that, you know ; 
and so I just dashed at her, got my 
arms round her neck, and in two min- 
utes we were both crying our eyes out. 

" Of course, Herbert, as a mere 
man, you can't understand what that 
is to us women. The relief, the 
luxury it is ! Bad for both of us it is, 
of course. I love my poor father very 
dearly, but, Herbert, you have taught 
me to understand how a wife loves 
her husband, and I know now what 
my love for my father is as compared 
with mother's. I feel ashamed of it. 
Yes, sir, literally ashamed at this 
minute to think what you are to me 
when my father, who I dearly love, 
is under such a terrible accusation. 
I never saw much of him, no doubt. 
I've been at school a good deal, you 
see ; and then since my emancipation, 
father has been a good bit away ; but, 
whenever he was here, no father could 
have been kinder. Nothing was ever 
too good for mother and me. If I 
hadn't a chariot and four and robes of 
gold brocade, it was because mother 
curbed his too lavish hand. I can 
never believe him guilty of what they 
allege, Herbert ; but, as I said before, 
the whole thing is killing mother. 
Can't you see it in her face ? " 



" Only too well, Nid dearest ; it's 
sad to see the work the last two or 
three weeks have wrought in your 
mother's handsome face, but what 
are we to do ? You know well, and 
I think Mrs. Foxborough does also, 
there is nothing within my power 
that I would not do to aid her in this 
her hour of trial ; but, Nid, we are 
helpless, we can at present but wait 
the course of events." 

" No, I suppose we can do no more, 
but I am sure, Herbert, that any- 
thing that can be done you will do," 
whispered Nid, with all that grand 
belief in her lover incidental to girls 
in the first stage of love's young 
dream. As married women, sad to 
say, they have not that magnificent 
belief in our omniscience and capa- 
bilities ; they have discovered we are 
pretty much as foolish as our neigh- 
bours, get into quite our average 
of scrapes, and show no peculiar apti- 
tude for getting out of the most part 
of them ; extricating ourselves for the 
most part in most prosaic and 
common-place fashion. 

" Good-bye, Nid dearest," said 
Morant, as he once more clasped his 
betrothed to his breast. " I shall, of 
course, come out every day, if it is 
only to tell you that there is no news, 
and that as far as the public are con- 
cerned is just what is the state of the 
case at present. Whether the police 
know more I can't say, but your 
mother's theory that her husband, 
like John Fossdyke, has been foully 
dealt with, would I fancy rather 
startle them, and yet if your father is 
alive it seems unaccountable they 
cannot hear of him." 

Nid's reply was brief, and of the 
kind interesting only to the recipient. 



MR. 



CHAPTER XXI 

STURTON IS CONSCIENCE 
STRICKEN 



We have already seen that Mr. Stur- 
ton was entangled in the mysterious 
fascination that is apt to surround a 
great crime. It had taken him down 
to Bunbury so that he might be 
present at the inquest, and from that 



MR. STURTON AS CONSCIENCE STRICKEN 



109 



time he had experienced a feverish 
anxiety to hear of James Fox- 
borough's arrest, not that he had any 
violent animosity to the criminal, but 
that he was morbidly desirous of see- 
ing the riddle of this murder un- 
ravelled. Although he had through 
Cudemore lent money to Foxborough, 
he had never seen him, and Mr. Stur- 
ton was at the present much disturbed 
in his mind about this very loan. It 
was not that he was anxious about his 
money ; he had very fair security for 
that, but he debated very much with 
himself, whether it was not his duty 
to acquaint the police with the fact of 
Foxborough being in possession of so 
large a sum of money. 

The days slipped by, and still the 
papers contained no clue to what they 
had tacitly agreed to call the Bunbury 
mystery. The public had certainly 
got no further intelligence since the 
inquest, and the general belief was 
that Foxborough had effected his es- 
cape from the country, and fled either 
to America or Spain. The whole 
affair seemed at a dead-lock, and 
with the exception, perhaps, of Ser- 
geant Usher, nobody had much idea 
that the culprit would ever be brought 
to justice. The sergeant was, as we 
know, in possession of a little bit of 
evidence about which the world knew 
nothing, and pondering over that note 
in his lodgings in Spring Gardens, Mr. 
Usher muttered more than once, 
" Whenever I can read this aright I 
shall know all about the Bunbury 
murder. It might be Arabic or 
Chinese for all I can make of it at 
present, but just as one learns foreign 
languages after a bit, so I shall under- 
stand this note. One thing is clear 
already, if Foxborough was the mur- 
derer he had a confederate." 

Mr. Sturton at last made up his 
mind to communicate with the police, 
but previous to doing so thought it 
might be as well to talk the thing over 
with Mr. Cudemore. He had a sus- 
picion that gentleman would be very 
much opposed to either the police or 
any one else being acquainted with 
his money-lending transactions ; still 
Mr. Sturton, for all his languid and 
somewhat affected manner, was quite 
capable of taking his own line, and 
was little likely to be overruled by 



Cudemore, whom he always treated 
as a subordinate ; finding him capital 
at times, throwing business into his 
way no doubt, but always assuming 
the position of the big capitalist. 
Cudemore, indeed, like many osten- 
sible money-lenders, was dependent 
in considerable measure upon bigger 
men than himself, and Mr. Sturton 
was his great patron. Very handy 
indeed also to Scotland Yard for the 
reporting of his little bit of intelli- 
gence was Mr. Cudemore's residence, 
reflected Mr. Sturton. 

The thing had to be discussed with 
that gentleman as a matter of detail, 
but that he would communicate with 
the police, Mr. Sturton had quite 
made up his mind. That the famous 
Sergeant Usher was living within a 
few doors of Mr. Cudemore, and 
habitually had his meals at the 
Wellington Restaurant, would have 
startled Mr. Sturton not a little 
Still more would it have surprised 
Mr. Cudemore that his junior clerk 
was aware of this fact, that he 
habitually lunched at the same res- 
taurant, and spent his whole time 
staring at the eminent detective. Ol 
course Sergeant Usher knew all about 
him, the clerk ; he did that from sheer 
habit. To what he called " reckon 
up" all those with whom he came in 
contact had become second nature to 
him, and therefore with no earthly 
motive he had learnt all about Mr. 
Cudemore's clerk. In similar fashion 
he, with no particular reason, had ac- 
quired a general knowledge of Mr 
Cudemore and his pursuits ; quite 
promiscuously, be it understood. It 
was information picked up in the way 
that a man trained to take note of 
everything that takes place around 
him would almost imperceptibly ac- 
quire of any one living in his vicinity. 
Of course he had put a question here 
and there. Men like Sergeant Usher 
cannot for the life of them resist 
doing that. They have, and they're 
very little account in their profession 
unless they do have, an insatiable 
thirst for information about every one. 
They should always regard it as pos- 
sible they m.iy want to know all about 
a man, and .'.srgeant Usher pursued 
an inquiry of this 4 inscription mechan- 
ically, and without any definite aim. 



I 10 



AT FAUL1 



Still it would have astonished Mr. 
Cudemore not a little to know that 
one of the crack detectives of " The 
Yard " was living within a few doors 
of him, and had more than a general 
idea of his (Cudemore's) business. 
There was nothing about Mr. Cude- 
more's business that might cause him 
to fear the interposition of the police, 
and yet at the same time they were 
just the sort of transactions that men 
desired secrecy about. Men driven 
to borrow money don't, as a rule, wish 
the fact advertised ; there is a touch 
of the Spartan boy with the fox be- 
neath his cloak about the process ; 
they prefer to bleed inwardly, and that 
the hemorrhage is severe and exhaust- 
ing, let those who have painfully gone 
through the ordeal testify. 

Mr. Sturton, upon presenting him- 
self in Spring Gardens, is speedily 
ushered upstairs. The clerks know 
him, and are quite aware that he is a 
visitor by no means to be kept wait- 
ing. They have, perhaps, rather hazy 
ideas of what his actual relations with 
their master may be, but they know 
Mr. Cudemore is always at home to 
Mr. Sturton. 

The great sartorial artist salutes his 
confederate in his usual affected lan- 
guid manner, correctly copied from 
one of his most blast customers, who 
generally orders his coats, etc., by the 
half-score, and whose superb non- 
chalance is the subject of Mr. Sturton's 
unbounded admiration. 

" Delighted to see you," exclaimed 
Mr. Cudemore as he shook hands, 
and then proceeded to roll an easy- 
chair to the fire for the accommodation 
of his guest. " I suppose it is busi- 
ness ol some sort to which I am 
indebted for the pleasure of seeing 
you ? " 

" Well, yes, it is. I want to have a 
talk with you about that money we 
advanced to James Foxborough. You 
see, we're so to speak mixed up in this 
Bunbury murder." 

" Good heavens ! Don't talk in that 
way," rejoined Cudemore. " We can't 
be held responsible for the future 
career of every man we lend money 
to. Besides, as I always told you, the 
security is good enough, and if you 
don't like it I can manage to take up 
your share of the loan." 



" Not at all, that's not it," interposed 
Mr. Sturton. " I know the Syringa 
Music Hall is to be found, although 
Foxborough isn't, and what is more, 
I don't think he ever will be now. I 
take it he's got clean out of the coun- 
try. But I think we ought to let the 
police know that he is in possession 
of that big sum of money." 

"I object to that altogether," ex- 
claimed Cudemore vehemently. "No 
money-lender makes a confidant of 
the police ; besides, what is the use 
of it? According to your own view 
the man has fled the country. It 
won't further the ends of justice or in 
the least contribute to his apprehen- 
sion to publish the fact that his 
pockets are full of money. Besides, 
ours is a profession," he continued 
with a sneer, "that does good by 
stealth. The advances we make at 
heavy percentage we don't publish on 
the housetops ; in fact, it is a calling 
we don't usually talk about. As for 
you, I should have imagined that you 
had every reason for not letting the 
world know that you traded on its 
necessities." 

"You are right, Cudemore," rejoined 
the other, " I don't particularly want 
the public to know that I do a quiet 
and tolerably lucrative business here 
with you. Sending a man the money 
to pay yourself don't sound a profit- 
able transaction to the uninitiated, 
but let him only have tolerable pros- 
pects, and it's a very tidy game. But, 
remember this, it doesn't at all follow 
my name is to appear. The informa- 
tion may be of use to the police, or it 
may not ; at all events, there is no 
reason for making the thing public." 

" And don't you think the police 
will want to know why you didn't 
come forward with your information 
before ? " retorted Cudemore spite- 
fully. " They well may, as it is past 
my comprehension. If you are bent 
upon advertising yourself as a money- 
lender, and in connection with the 
Bunbury murder, it seems singular 
that you should have put it off for so 
long." 

" I tell you there's no necessity 
whatever for the appearance of our 
names," replied Mr. Sturton quietly. 
" Any way, I have made up my mind 



MR. STURTON IS CONSCIENCE STRICKEN 



in 



to give that much information to the 
police, and it is for them to make use 
of it if they can." 

" I tell you, again, that I strongly 
object to your doing so," exclaimed 
Cudemore vehemently. " Look here, 
if this is a matter of money, I'll, as I 
said before, find your share of the 
loan in a few days. It will be then 
altogether my affair, and you will be 
absolved from all conscientious scru- 
ples." 

" I tell you that it is nothing of that 
sort, once more. I am not in the least 
uneasy about my money, but I con- 
sider the police ought to be informed 
of Foxborough having this sum in 
his possession, and I intend they 
shall." 

"And once more I protest against 
your doing anything of the sort. 
You've no right to compromise me," 
said Mr. Cudemore irritably. 

" All right, I won't ; I'll make it 
nppear that I found the money in 
conjunction with others, and who the 
others are need not transpire. I 
can't for the life of me see what you 
are raising such a pother about." 

" 1 tell you I don't want the police 
interlering with my private affairs," 
rejoined Mr. Cudemore doggedly. 

'' I'll argue the thing no longer, but 
remember I shall do what I have 
made up my mind to do as soon as I 
leave these rooms." 

Mr. Cudemore shot a most malig- 
nant glance at his companion, a 
glance that augured ill for Mr. Stur- 
ton's well-being, should it ever depend 
on the money-lender's good wishes, 
but he made no further reply. He 
knew from experience that Sturton 
was placidly immovable when he had 
once determined on anything. He 
would discuss it in his usual languid 
fashion as long as you liked, but 
invariably remained of precisely the 
same opinion. He was a man of 
much quiet tenacity of purpose, and, 
a thing Cudemore had yet to learn, 
opposition only strengthened him in 
his determination whatever it might be. 

" So young Morant paid up. I never 
expected that of him. I thought he 
was certain to renew." 

" No, the young gentleman has 
fallen in love and turned over a fresh 
leaf ; he's paid off his tradesmen and 



done with all transactions involving 
stamped paper. The fool thinks that , 
having spent the best part of what 
money he had, the remainder will go 
further if there are two people to keep 
instead of one." 

" Why, who does he want to 
marry ?" asked Sturton. 

" Miss Foxborough." 

" But that is a marriage I think will 
probably not come off, as I under 
stand," said Mr. Sturton carelessly, 
"you are interested in preventing it. 
Well," he continued, rising, " I wish 
you every success, and, in the mean- 
time, good-bye." 

" And are you going across to 
Scotland Yard ? " 

" Undoubtedly, but don't disturb 
yourself, your name will not appear," 
and so saying Mr. Sturton took his 
departure. 

True to his word, the Bond Street 
maestro made his way across to the 
police headquarters, and briefly 
explained his errand. He was re- 
quested to sit down and wait a few 
minutes while they sent for the officer 
in charge of the case. Sergeant 
Usher was speedily on the spot, and 
no little pleased at the idea of receiv- 
ing any fresh information bearing 
upon the Bunbury mystery. He was 
perhaps the one officer who was still 
confident of unravelling the tangle. 
Utterly nonplussed just at present he 
would admit, but he stuck to it he 
had a clue whenever he had learnt 
how to use it. He felt he had got 
the signal-book, but had yet to learn 
how to read the flags. 

He listened attentively to Mr. Stur- 
ton's statement, merely remarking that 
it was singular that Mr. Foxborough 
should borrow so large a sum without 
having some definite object in 
view. Did Mr. Sturton know at all 
for what purpose it was required ? 
No. Curious, six thousand pounds is 
a good deal of money to raise to 
carry about as pocket-money. He 
was very much obliged to Mr. Sturton 
for the information, which might very 
possibly turn out of great value. Mr. 
Sturton's name in the papers ? Cer- 
tainly not. This fact would rest 
between them ; indeed, far from wish- 
ing to publish it he, Sergeant Usher, 
would have asked Mr. Sturton as a 



112 



AT FAULT 



particular favour not to mention it to 
any one, and so the sergeant politely 
bowed his visitor out, and went home 
to ruminate on this last bit of informa- 
tion. 



CHAPTER XXII 

SERGEANT USHER AT FAULT 

Sergeant Usher di^ no. commit 
himself much before Mr. Sturton, but 
when he got back to his own fireside 
he sat down and smoked a perfect 
succession of meditative pipes over 
this new feature in the case. What 
on earth had Foxborough wanted so 
large a sum of money as that tor? 
Was it that having raised all the 
money he could command he then 
went in to wreak his vengeance on 
the man with whom he had an implac- 
able feud, and, his victim done to 
death, made his way precipitately to 
the nearest seaport, and from thence 
to foreign parts ? No, Mr. Usher 
was not inclined to accept that solu- 
tion of the case, and another thing 
that puzzled the sergeant not a little 
was the curious fact that, except at 
the Syringa, Mr. Foxborough seemed 
unknown in theatrical circles, and the 
sergeant had been very diligent in his 
inquiries on that point. Mr. Usher 
was puzzled as to what direction he 
should now make research in. At 
last it flashed across him that some 
further evidence as to Foxborough's 
personality was to be come by in 
Baumborough ; there must be some- 
body else besides Mr. Totterdell who 
had noticed the stranger at the 
theatre. In country places, where 
every one is well known by sight, a 
stranger would invariably attract 
attention. He had been unlucky 
before in not getting hold of the right 
people. Moreover, the sergeant re- 
flected that he had not as yet, to use 
his own expression, " turned Mr. 
Totterdell inside out," and he had a 
hazy idea that there was something to 
be got out of that garrulous old gen- 
tleman, if one could but get at it. 
That Mr. Totterdell would maunder 
away a whole afternoon before 
blurting out the one fact worth know- 



ing which he had to tell, the sergeant 
thought was likely, but he had experi- 
enced that sort of witness before, and 
knew that there was nothing for it but 
patience and — yes, he had one other 
receipt which he had found efficacious 
in similar cases — namely, to affect 
incredulity. It was apt to make a 
weariful witness protest so much, that 
you did at last get at the one grain 
of evidence he had to give worth 
noting. 

There was another important fact 
in the case now, according to Ser- 
geant Usher's judgment ; he had 
come to the conclusion that Fox- 
borough had a confederate, and it 
was possible that it was the confed- 
erate, and not Foxborough, who had 
sat next Mr. Totterdell at the theatre. 
At all events, Foxborough had got 
somebody to write that note, and it 
was singular that the reward offered 
for the murderer's apprehension had 
not induced this person to come 
forward. The handwriting was un- 
mistakably a man's, and yet people 
conversant with James Foxborough's 
handwriting were quite positive it was 
not his. The sergeant with those 
ideas once more ran down to Baum- 
borough and commenced his inquiries. 
He talked as before with everybody 
he came across in easy and affable 
fashion, invariably turning the con- 
versation before long on the great 
Bunbury mystery, but indefatigably 
as he gossiped for two days he failed 
to pick up one particle of information 
that might be turned to account. He 
had, it is true, got hold of one or two 
people who had positively noticed the 
stranger, not vaguely thinking that 
they saw him, but describing him 
definitely as a dark gentleman, of 
medium height, attired in evening 
costume. Still, this amounted to 
nothing. Foxborough was a dark- 
complexioned man by all accounts, 
and therefore there was no reason to 
dispute the original theory that he 
was the man who had been present at 
the theatre. 

On the third day the sergeant 
proceeded to call upon Mr. Totterdell, 
and prepared himself for a tolerably 
long conversation. That gentleman, 
upon receiving his card, was only too 
delighted to admit him. Mr. Totter- 



SERGEANT USHER AT EAUL 



113 



dell, in good truth, had been very 
much depressed about the turn things 
had taken lately. He had pressed for 
an inquiry into the financial affairs of 
the town, and this had turned out 
perfectly groundless. The Town 
Clerk was rumoured to have left but 
little behind him; still his books were 
all in regular order, and there was no 
warrant for supposing that whatever he 
might have done with his own, he had 
ever made ducks and drakes of the 
public money. It is customary to 
speak tenderly of the dead, and when 
a man makes so tragic an end of it as 
John Fossdyke, pity makes folks 
recall his good qualities only. Baum- 
borough forgot the Town Clerk's 
aggressive and domineering manner, 
and remembered only the many 
improvements that he had promoted in 
their midst. Baumborough further 
called to mind that it was Mr. Totter- 
dell who in spiteful fashion had 
moved for an inquiry into its financial 
condition, and that his object in so 
doing had been principally to annoy 
John Fossdyke, who had very pro- 
perly turned him out of his house as 
a meddlesome mischief-maker. Mr. 
Totterdell had succeeded in making 
himself, by dint of his insatiable 
curiosity and strong propensity to 
babble, exceedingly unpopular, and 
this last move had placed him in very 
bad odour with his fellow-citizens. 
It was true he would gladly have 
withdrawn his motion, but some of 
John Fossdyke's enemies — and he 
was much too self-assertive a man 
not to have made several — took good 
care the matter should not be allowed 
to drop. His untimely death it had 
been of course impossible to foresee, 
and the motion made in Mr. Totter- 
dell's name bore, if loosely looked at, 
the aspect of a malignant attempt to 
blacken a dead man's fame. People 
declined to hear Mr. Totterdell's 
explanation, and that he had moved 
for the inquiry out of mere malice 
and consequent on his quarrel with, 
the luckless Town Clerk he was 
unable to deny. Mr. Totterdell had 
an idea that if he could appear as a 
prominent witness against Fox- 
borough, and contribute not a little 
to his conviction, that Baumborough 
would condone his offending and iaUf 



him once more into favour. That his 
present unpopularity was due to his 
inquisitive and meddlesome disposi- 
tion, and not to the unfortunate 
circumstance of his having moved for 
that inquiry, never occurred to him. 
We are seldom conscious of our 
besetting sins, and, as a rule, men 
never plead guilty to tattling and 
curiosity ; rather despising those 
vices, we are little likely to acknow- 
ledge to a weakness concerning them. 

"Ah! Mr. Usher," exclaimed Mr. 
Totterdell, as the sergeant quietly 
entered his drawing-room, "delighted 
to see you ; knew you'd have to come 
to me again. That old fool of a 
coroner, you of course saw, deliber- 
ately suppressed my evidence. I hope 
it was only ignorance ; but how are 
the perpetrators of crimes like this to 
be arrived at if the chief evidence about 
them is to be deliberately sat upon ? 
You were there, Mr. Usher, and saw 
the coroner, abetted by Mr. Trail, 
deliberately squash my evidence. I 
had no opportunity of stating one 
half of what I know." 

" That's just where it is, sir. I said 
if they'd only let Mr. Totterdell tell 
his story in his own way we should 
get at the rights of things, but it's 
just like these muddle-headed country 
officials, they are so anxious to dis- 
play their little bit of authority that 
they can't help interfering just to 
show they have the right to." 

" Quite so, Mr. Usher, and if I had 
told my story things might bear a 
different aspect now. Foxborough 
might be in custody perhaps." 

" Well, I don't mind telling you in 
confidence. I'm always straight and 
above board with the people in the 
case, but it is to go no further, mind : 
that it's getting just a question 
whether he ever will be in custody. 
He is either about the deepest card 
ever I came across, or rather can't 
come across, or else what they're 
saying about Baumborough is true." 

" Saying about Baumborough," in- 
terposed Mr. Totterdell greedily. 
" What are they saying in the town ; 
nothing about me, eh ?" 

" Well, that's just where it is, sir ; 
they're a gossiping, good-lor-nothing 
set, and they seem to be mighty spite- 
ful against you." 



U 4 



AT FAULT 



" Too true, sergeant, too true, they 
are ; and all because I endeavour to 
do my duty ; but what is it they say ? " 

" They declare you never saw Mr. 
Foxborough at all, that you either 
dreamt it or saw some traveller pass- 
ing through who happened to drop a 
Syringa bill, and you imagined the 
rest." 

" Ah, they say that," cried Totter- 
dell, his face flushed with anger. 
" Wait till the trial comes off, and see 
what they have to say then." 

" Getting open to question, as I 
said before, whether there will be a 
trial. It don't require much gump- 
tion," continued the sergeant, " to 
understand that you can't have a trial 
without somebody to try." 

" Nonsense," stammered Mr. Tot- 
terdell : " you don't mean to say 
there is no chance of the scoundrel's 
apprehension." 

" Well, I am coming to the opinion 
of Baumborough that you didn't see 
Foxborough. Your opinion that you 
did is only based on that music-hall 
bill, you know, and that amounts to 
nothing." 

" But," exclaimed Mr. Totterdell 
vehemently, " I am not the only per- 
son who recognised him, or rather 
who spoke to him." 

The sergeant pricked up his ears, 
but all he said was, " Well, I can't 
find any one else that had any talk 
with him in all Baumborough." 

" Perhaps not," retorted Mr. Totter- 
dell triumphantly, " but all the world 
doesn't reside in Baumborough. Fox- 
borough went behind the scenes ; I 
saw him there myself, and they all 
seemed to know him." 

" Oh," said the sergeant, convinced 
now that he had about turned Mr. 
Totterdell out, " he went behind the 
scenes, did he ? Would you, sir, as a 
particular favour, try to recollect who 
' all ' may mean ? Who individually 
did he speak to?" Now here Mr. 
Totterdell broke down in ignominious 
fashion. He at first Said every one — 
then, well, not exactly every one ; 
and finally, dexterously manipulated 
by Sergeant Usher, he was brought to 
confess that he had only seen the pre- 
sumed Foxborough speak to the lady 
who had played Mary Netley in 
" Ours " : he had forgotten her name. 



But this was a fact tangible and im- 
portant in the sergeant's eyes. It 
would be simple enough to find out 
who the lady was, and also where she 
was now engaged. A professional 
lady is generally easy to discover. 
But the sergeant was once more a 
little staggered ; this fact was all in 
favour of its being Foxborough him- 
self, and if so the accomplice had 
confined himself to writing the note, 
and had nothing more to do with the 
matter. Foxborough would of course 
be likely to know theatrical people, 
although the sergeant had not been 
able to make out so far that he was 
known amongst them. 

"Well, Mr. Totterdell," observed the 
sergeant, who was by this time most 
thoroughly conversant with the old 
gentleman's anxiety to appear as a 
witness, " this may turn out rather 
important for you ; if we can only 
manage to find this young lady, you 
see, she will corroborate your evi- 
dence, and then the chain will be 
getting complete." 

" Didn't I say so before ? If the 
coroner had only allowed me to tell 
my story at Bunbury you'd have 
found this young lady before now." 

"If you had only produced the 
most important fact in your wallet at 
the inquest, Mr. Totterdell, we might 
probably have arrested the murderer 
before this," replied the sergeant 
curtly. 

" You don't mean you can't find 
this young lady? The manager of 
the theatre, I dare say, can give you 
her name." 

" Oh I'll have her name, and find 
her in four-and-twenty hours, but it is 
not likely to lead to finding Fox- 
borough now." 

" You surely don't mean that he has 
fled the country ? " asked Mr. Totter- 
dell anxiously. 

" All I mean, sir, is that if people 
would afford the police all the infor- 
mation in their power instead of half 
of it, it would be more conducive to 
the ends of justice." 

And leaving Mr. Totterdell to 
digest this observation the sergeant 
bowed himself out. 

To ascertain that the leading lady 
at the opening of the Baumborough 
Theatre had been a Miss Lightcomb 



SERGEANT USHER AT FAULT 



115 



required, of course, only two minutes' 
conversation with the manager of that 
establishment, and a reference to the 
Era quickly revealed the fact that she 
was at present fulfilling an engage- 
ment at the Margate Theatre, and 
thither Sergeant Usher betook him- 
self without loss of time. 

Pretty Miss Lightcomb was not a 
little surprised at an abrupt visit from 
a stranger, and a little perturbed 
when her visitor announced his pro- 
fessional position. Dexterously ques- 
tioned by Sergeant Usher she said 
that of course she had read all about 
the Bunbury murder, but what could 
she know about it? She had never 
even been in Bunbury, nor had she to 
her knowledge ever seen Mr. Foss- 
dyke. Of course she was aware that 
he had been present at the opening of 
the theatre, but she did not know him 
by sight, nor could one always dis- 
tinguish people in front even if you 
did. Had she spoken to James Fox- 
borough behind the scenes that night? 
Most certainly not. She had never 
even seen Mr. Foxborough in her life. 
Could hardlv say she ever knew him 
by name before this terrible murder 
brought his name so prominently 
before the public. Could scarcely say 
who she had seen that night ; there 
were a good many gentlemen came 
round, pretty well all strangers to her ; 
many of them said something com- 
plimentary about her acting of Mary 
Netley ; there was champagne and 
other refreshments going on in the 
manager's room, and most of the 
gentlemen were on their way there. 
No ! she had been on the stage the 
last seven years, and she had never 
heard of Mr. Foxborough in connec- 
tion with the country business. All 
her engagements had been in the 
country ; she had never succeeded in 
getting on the London boards. 

"Then, Miss Lightcomb," said the 
sergeant at last, " it is fair to presume 
that you have a pretty considerable 
acquaintance with country man- 
agers ? " 

" Certainly I know personally a 
great many of them. I have fulfilled 
engagements all over England, be- 
sides taking a turn in Edinburgh and 
Glasgow, but 1 never heard of any 
company conducted by Mr. Fox- 



borough. It is possible he had a 
stage name, you know ; it is a com- 
mon enough custom in our profession." 

" Quite so, but I don't fancy he 
ever appeared himself; he merely 
managed a touring company. Ah, 
well, 1 need trouble you no further, 
Miss Lightcomb, at present ; it is 
curious you shouldn't have heard of 
Mr. Foxborough. Good morning ! " 

" And it is curious," continued the 
sergeant to himself when he got out- 
side the modest lodgings in which the 
actress resided, " I can't find anybody 
who ever has met Foxborough in his 
vocation, while, if ever there was a 
profession in which a man was well 
before the public, it is the theatrical. 
That he is lessee of the Syringa is 
certain, but about his other stage 
speculations nobody seems to know 
anything. It is a very interesting 
case, and Foxborough is about the 
most shadowy customer ever I was in 
quest of. He doesn't write his own 
letters, and doesn't apparently practise 
his own profession ; but he commits 
one of the coolest, most audacious 
murders ever known, and disappears. 
I wonder whether that talkative old 
fool Totterdell is addicted to drink or 
opium. He must have seen some one 
though who did drop that music-hall 
bill, and whom he fancied he saw be- 
hind the scenes afterwards. If he 
had only let one know that he had 
seen the man in the stalls speaking to 
Miss Lightcomb at the time, it is 
probable that the girl might have 
called to mind who did speak to her ; 
still, as she said most of them were 
strangers to her, perhaps the very 
man I want might have been one of 
those." 

Once more Sergeant Usher found 
himself driven back to his old con- 
clusion, that it was "a rum 'un." 
However, there was nothing more to 
be done in Margate, and Miss Light- 
comb had apparently nothing to tell, 
and yet the sergeant was impressed 
with the idea that, just like Mr. Tot- 
terdell, she would give a valuable bit 
of information could he but get it out 
of her. He did not think for one 
moment she was wilfully keeping back 
anything, but simply that for the 
want of the key-note he had been 
unable to arrive it what he wanted 



rib 



AT FAULT 



All the questions he could think of 
that bore upon the matter he had put, 
and the actress had answered them 
frankly and freely ; but Mr. Usher 
was aware that in the detection of 
crime you may walk round and round 
a thing and not see it ; examine 
people who could and are quite will- 
ing to tell you what you want to know 
and yet not arrive at that fact. Some 
trifling matter that appears to have 
nothing to do with the case is just the 
one missing link in a chain of circum- 
stantial evidence that the police are 
in search of, and the possessor of that 
knowledge has no conception of its 
importance. 

Sergeant Usher determined to go 
back to Baumborough. Nothing had 
come of his last discovery there, but 
it was possible diligent investigation 
might lead to something yet, and no 
chess player was ever more absorbed 
in an intricate problem than Sergeant 
Usher in the elucidation of the Bun- 
bury mystery. Should anything sug- 
gest that crucial question to which he 
believed Miss Lightcomb possessed 
the answer, she was always to be 
found without difficulty. 

Nothing in these high-pressure 
days attains the dignity of more than 
a nine days' wonder, and it could not 
be supposed that Baumborough could 
sustain its interest about John Foss- 
dyke's untimely end any longer. His 
assassin had apparently beat the 
police, and the tragedy seemed des- 
tined to be one of those semi-revealed 
crimes of which we have only too 
many. But there were some few 
people in the town who still had 
strong interest in the solution of the 
riddle. Mr. Totterdell, for reasons 
already stated, deemed that it would 
put him straight with divers of his 
fellow-citizens, who now unmistakably 
gave him the cold shoulder, could the 
criminal but be apprehended. Philip 
Soames had a strong idea that if 
ever the story of the Bunbury 
mystery should be unfolded he should 
arrive at Bessie's secret, and Dr. 
Ingleby held a similar view. Soames 
had called often at Dyke of late and 
always been received with the greatest 
cordiality by Mrs. Fossdyke. The 
widow had returned from her excur- 
sion to the seaside, and Dr. Ingleby 



had made known to her the alteration 
in her circumstances. Curiously 
enough she was by no means dis- 
tressed at the idea of leaving Dyke. 
On the contrary, she said she should 
never like the place again, and re- 
marked that she should have left it 
under any circumstances. She talked 
matters over freely with the young 
man, and told him she should take a 
small house in Baumborough. Even 
had her means permitted it, what did 
she want with a place like Dyke ? 
She should live a good deal in retire- 
ment henceforth ; glad to see her old 
friends, of course, but after such a 
blow as had befallen her it was not 
likely a woman would ever mix much 
with the world again. As for Miss 
Hyde, she always welcomed Philip 
with a sweet smile and frank clasp of 
the hand, but she never suffered her- 
self to be alone with him. She had 
decidedly refused to accompany him 
either for a turn round the garden or 
as far as the gate upon the one or 
two occasions that he had begged 
that favour of her, giving him to 
understand distinctly that all was over 
between them, and Philip began to 
get despondent about ever carrying his 
point. There is no winning a girl's 
confidence if you can never secure a 
tite-a-tete with her. Folk don't, as a 
rule, unbosom themselves in public, 
albeit that insufferable bore who 
always will inflict his domestic 
economy, from the price of his wife's 
last dress to what he pays for his 
washing, is ever manifest in the land. 
Still these are hardly to be called con- 
fidences ; distasteful revelations is, I 
fancy, what many of the victims would 
describe them. Philip Soames deter- 
mined at last to have a quiet talk over 
his love affair with Dr. Ingleby. He 
cannot help thinking the doctor can 
force Bessie's hand if he will but try, 
and Philip is fain to confess he can 
make nothing of it himself, hard as 
he has striven. Were Foxborough 
only arrested he thinks the trial 
might throw some side-light that 
would reveal to him the cause of 
Bessie's scruples ; for that they were 
mere scruples Philip was convinced. 
Full of mis design he took his road 
10 the doctor's one morning and made, 
his way into the study. 



SERGEANT USHER AT FAULT 



117 



"Well, Philip, what brings you 
here so early ? Glad to see you at 
any time, as you know, but you 
don't often honour me so soon as 
this." 

" Well, I have come to ask your 
help as an old friend. I told you 
how I stand with Miss Hyde, and 
I'm in real earnest about marrying that 
girl ; but I'm at a dead-lock. If she 
simply said me nay, well, 1 should be 
bound to take my answer with the best 
grace I could muster ; but she owns 
she loves me, yet declares there are 
insurmountable obstacles to our marry- 
ing. Now if I could arrive at the 
obstacles I should probably not think 
much of them, but I can't. I want 
you to try if you cannot extort a 
confession." 

"This is rather an awkward task 
you seek to impose upon me, Phil. 
Miss Hyde has always been a special 
favourite of mine, and I flatter my- 
self I stand pretty high in her good 
graces, but I don't know how she 
would take such interference on my 
part. She's a girl that, mark me, 
can hold her own, and knows how 
to check what she may deem an un- 
justifiable liberty." 

" I acknowledge all you say, my 
dear doctor, and I wouldn't urge 
you to do this save for two things. 
Bessie has owned she loved me, and 
I am sure she is acting, though 
most conscientiously, 'for my sake,' 
to use her own words, yet under a 
misconception. I know, my dear 
old friend, I am to some extent ex- 
posing you to a rebuff; but you 
know Bessie, and must feel assured 
that if she will not make confession 
to you her refusal will be courteously 
couched." 

" I know all that, Phil ; still I have 
a strong dislike to seeking a con- 
fidence. If people bring you their 
troubles, well, one must do the best 
one can for them; but when they 
prefer to suffer in silence it seems 
gratuitous impertinence to endeavour 
to discover what they so obviously 
wish to conceal." 

" I admit all that, but I am asking 
you to run some mischance of that 
nature for my sake," cried Phil. 
" My life's happiness is at stake, and 
though it may appear presumption 



to say so, I think perhaps Bessie's 
also. I am bound to leave no stone 
unturned, nor any friend who I 
think may aid me unsolicited for 
help under such circumstances. I 
think you can aid me, and I know 
you will when you have thought it 
over." 

" I fancy I shall be so rash," 
replied the doctor. " Give me a 
minute to think about it." 

" You shall have ten, if you like,'' 
replied Phil, smiling, " because I 
know you mean saying yes at the end 
of them." 

The doctor thought it over and 
then said — 

" I'll do my best for you. I'll see 
Miss Hyde, and if I can induce her 
to tell me her story " 

" Gentleman to see you, sir," ex- 
claimed the voice of the doctor's 
servant, and as the man spoke Dr. 
Ingleby became aware of the pre- 
sence of Sergeant Usher. 

" Beg pardon, sir, but your young 
man gave me to understand you 
were disengaged, or else I wouldn't 
have intruded. Can't say I regret it, 
as I just arrived in time to hear you 
say you would try to make Miss 
Hyde tell you her story. That's 
just where it is, if we could only in- 
duce people to speak out at once, what 
a lot of things would be put straight, 
and what an amount of miscarriage 
of justice would be prevented ! I 
don't say it's wilful perversity, be- 
cause it ain't ; it's human infirmity, 
that's what it is ; it's people's utter 
incapacity to tell all they know about 
anything. Here's Mr. Totterdell, for 
instance, tells me the day before 
yesterday a little circumstance that 
if I'd known two months ago would 
have been worth any money in the 
case. Well, off I go to see the party 
alluded to, and of course the>'ve 
forgot the very thing they were wanted 
to remember. It's aggravating, very : 
it's as if we were engaged in a re- 
gular game of hunt the slipper with 
the British public, only the British 
public are not hiding the slipper in- 
tentionally." 

Philip Soames had stared with 
amazement and no slight indigna- 
tion at this little grey, voluble man, 
as he delivered the above tirade, 



u8 



AI FAULT 



and Dr. Ingleby saw that explanation 

was imperative. 

" My dear Phil," he exclaimed, 
" allow me to make you known to 
Sergeant Usher of the Criminal In- 
vestigation Department, Scotland 
Yard. As for making you known 
to him, that I fancy is superfluous. 
I have little doubt there are few of 
the leading townspeople here with 
whom the sergeant is unacquainted 
by this." 

The sergeant made a respectful 
bow, and admitted he had the plea : 
sure of knowing Mr. Soames by sight. 

But the young man was by no 
means mollified. 

" I don't understand the unneces- 
sary dragging of Miss Hyde's name 
into the case," he exclaimed haughtily. 
" You must be aware she can know 
nothing about it. You catch a frag- 
ment of the conversation between 
Dr. Ingleby and myself, and im- 
mediately jump to the conclusion 
that the story \ allude to has some- 
thing to do with the death of John 
Fossdyke." 

" Excuse me, sir," replied the ser- 
geant quietly : " the little I over- 
heard was the result of the purest 
accident, but Dr. Ingleby will tell 
you I have been of opinion almost 
from the first that Miss Hyde had 
some previous knowledge of James 
Foxborough, and that if she could 
be persuaded to tell that to, say Dr. 
Ingleby, it might prove of consider- 
able value in getting at the rights of 
the Bunbury murder." 

" It is true, Phil," observed the 
doctor, " the sergeant is so far right 
that Miss Hyde has admitted to 
some knowledge of Foxborough, al- 
though she declares she never saw 
him, and that the little she knows 
about him could throw no light what- 
ever on this affair." 

" Now, look here, Mr. Soames, 
you cannot think that I want to an- 
noy or occasion pain to any young lady," 
interposed the sergeant, " but I know 
from experience it is just the merest 
trifle that constantly affords us the 
clue we seek. I don't say Miss 
Hyde is in possession of it ; she no 
doubt honestly believes the little she 
knows is of no consequence, but I 
dp wish she would let me be judge 



of that. If she could be in 
duced to confide it to Dr. Ingleby, 
and the doctor then submitted it to 
me, Miss Hyde would be saved 
pretty wsll all unpleasantness ; and 
forgive me, sir, but in the interest of 
justice I am compelled to gather 
every scrap of information I can 
about one of the most mysterious 
murders it was ever my lot to investi- 
gate." 

Philip Soames was still indignant 
at the idea of the lady of his love 
being mixed up in the affair in any 
way, but then he reflected she must 
be slightly so under any circumstances, 
and then it occurred to him that 
what the sergeant had first said was 
very probably true, and that Miss 
Hyde's story would quite likely in- 
clude the account of the slight 
knowledge of Foxborough. He had 
just been urging his old friend to 
obtain this confession in his own be- 
half, and there would be glaring in- 
consistency in opposing his doing so 
now just because a detective officer 
thought a clue to the Bunbury mys- 
tery might turn up in the narration ; 
moreover his own love chase depended 
on the result, and he did not think 
that Bessie need fear to confide in 
so trusty a friend as Dr. Ingleby. 
Love is essentially a selfish passion, 
say the philosophers, more especially 
a young man's love, and finally 
Philip gave his assent once more to 
his own scheme. 

" You rely on me, Mr. Soames. 
Don't you be afraid of my not con- 
sidering Miss Hyde's feelings. The 
chances are there won't be the slight- 
est necessity for ever making public 
the young lady's information, but it 
will quite likely just throw a glimmer 
of light upon what I don't mind 
telling you, gentlemen, is about as 
dark a business so far as ever I went 
into. By the way, doctor, I suppose 
you never made anything out about 
that letter?" 

"No; I should think there is little 
doubt it was destroyed. By the way, I 
saw in the paper some letters had 
been discovered at the Hopbine." 

" Bless you, sir, the papers will 
say anything in cases of this kind," 
replied the candid sergeant. " Good 
morning, gentlemen ! " 



BESSIE'S CONFESSION 



119 



CHAPTER XXIII 

BESSIE'S CONFESSION 

Dr. Inglehv, the next morning, halt 
repented him of this promise he had 
made. He was exceedingly fond of 
Bessie Hyde, and he recollected the 
girl's distress the last time he had 
spoken to her about her knowledge 
of Foxborough. True, this was some- 
what different ; he was only going to 
ask her this time to trust in him 
and let him be judge whether there 
was reason the happiness of two 
lives should be wrecked. If she really 
loved Philip, and he was not the 
man to say she had made that admission 
without due and sufficient grounds 
for so saying, surely she would be 
anxious to clutch at a chance of 
clearing away the obstacles to her 
marriage. " At all events," thought 
the doctor, " if I am somewhat over- 
stepping the privileges of an old 
friend, it is on behalf of two young 
people whom I sincerely desire to 
benefit. It may not be quite a 
pleasant business, I am afraid it 
won't : it seemed so painful to Bessie 
before to touch upon, that it would 
be absurd to suppose it will prove 
otherwise now ; still it's got to be done. 
I'm not going to have Bessie Hyde and 
Phil Soames drift apart if I can help it. 
She's just the wife for him ; he's 
plenty of money, and lots more to 
come. Oh no ! I'm not at all above 
doing a bit of match making when 
I think it desirable, and I'll have 
the bells ringing at Baumborough 
about those two, or know the reason 
why." 

No matter this to be put off, and 
the doctor determined to go over to 
Dyke, and have the thing out at once. 
Unlike Philip, he knew he should 
have no difficulty about a tete-a-tcte 
with Miss Hyde. Bessie undoubtedly 
regarded the doctor as a trusted 
friend, and he was of that age she 
might look upon him as not likely to 
misinterpret her confidences. He 
called next day upon the two ladies, 
as was his custom, about tea-time, and 
after much desultory conversation 
as was usual, and having quietly 
informed Mrs. Fossdyke that nothing 
fresh had transpired concerning ner 
husband's melancholy end, said, as h" 



made his adieux, " Miss Hyde, walk 
to the gate with me, please. I have 
something to say to you." 

" You wouldn't dc reive me, doctor?" 
cried the widow. " Surely there can 
be no more terrible news coming to 
me ? " 

" Not in the least, my dear madam. 
What I have to say to Miss Hyde 
concerns herself alone, and is a thing 
she need feel little misgiving about 
listening to. Will you come, Miss 
Bessie ? " 

"Yes, of course ; my hat is in the 
hall. I feel half frightened, doctor," 
she continued as they passed the hall 
door. " I don't know what you have 
to tell me, but I can never forget the 
night when Phil — Mr. Soames sent 
for me into the study and told his 
terrible tale." 

" I have nothing terrible to tell you, 
nor you me ; but, Bessie, I want you to 
comprehend that I consider I stand 
to you in the light of him who has 
gone. You know how intimate I have 
been at Dyke, and it has always 
appeared to me that poor Fossdyke 
looked upon yoa more in the light of 
a ward than his wife's companion. I 
was, as you know, one of his most 
intimate friends, and am now his 
executor. I want you, Bessie, to 
regard me in the same light, and give 
me your confidence." 

The girl's face looked a little 
troubled for a minute or so, and then 
she replied gravely, " It is only too 
good of you to take an interest in me. 
As for confidences — " and here she 
indulged in a little nervous laugh — 
" what should I have to confide 
further than it was I upset the cream 
and not the cat." 

"To begin upon," said Dr. Ingleby, 
" Philip Soames has acquainted me 
with all that has passed between 
you." 

" Then I think Mr. Soames has 
been guilty of much indiscretion," 
retorted the girl, as she reared her 
head proudly. "He might have relied 
upon my lips being sealed, and 
though I have nothing to reproach 
myself with, still I did not anticipate 
our affairs becoming common dis- 
course." 

" Bessie, Bessie," replied Dr. Ingle- 
by gently, " please don't meet me in 



:2o 



AT FAULT 



that spirit. It was in no braggadocio 
vein, believe me, that Phil told me the 
story of his wooing. It was the wail 
of a rejected lover — rejected, forsooth, 
as he honestly avers and believes, for 
some shadowy reason that could he 
but come by it might be swept away 
in an instant." 

" Mr. Soames did me an honour 
which for reasons good and sufficient 
I felt compelled to decline. He has 
told you that he asked me to be his 
wife, and, further, that for his own 
sake I was obliged to refuse his re- 
quest. I think Mr. Soames is not 
treating me generously. I told him 
frankly that I could marry no man to 
whom I had not first told my story, 
and that I had not courage tojdo that ; 
if I had loved him less it would have 
been easier, but I could not bear the 
dismay on his face when he learnt 
who I really was, or to have him 
stand by his offer from a pure sense 
of honour. I could not bear," she 
continued passionately, " to embroil 
him with his own family, or that 
people should whisper and point to 
Philip Soames' wife as a woman with 
a shameful story attached to her. 
No ! Dr. Ingleby, you are very good, 
but I love Philip too dearly to be a 
millstone round his neck, or to have 
him at war with society for my sake. 
If poor Mr. Fossdyke had lived, the 
decision would have rested with him. 
He knew all about me, and I told him 
what had passed between me and 
Philip, but his advice is lost to me, 
and I belieVe I am acting for the best, 
doing what is right, in adhering to 
my original decision." 

Bessie ceased speaking, but it was 
evident she was deeply moved ; the 
long dark lashes of her eyes were wet, 
and the girl's whole frame trembled 
slightly with emotion. Dr. Ingleby 
was not a little nonplussed. There 
could be no doubt that Bessie hon- 
estly loved Soames, and that it was 
entirely for his own sake she refused 
him. She certainly was a better 
judge than either he or Philip could 
pretend to be of the circumstances ; 
was it fair to wring this girl's story 
from her only to endorse her own view 
and acknowledge that the obstacles 
she deemed unsurmountable really 
were so ? Then, again, was it not 



better for Philip that things should 
remain as they were, and he be free 
from what might probably turn out an 
unfortunate marriage, so far as con- 
nection went ? Society in country 
places is even more intolerant than in 
big cities ; in London, for instance, 
who you are is not so much conse- 
quence now-a-days as what you've got 
per annum, and can you keep clear of 
the law your iniquities are not counted 
against you, provided your cook and 
your wines are unimpeachable ; but 
none knew better than Dr. Ingleby 
that if the ladies of Baumborough 
once decided the antecedents of a 
new-comer made her admission 
within society's pale inadmissible, it 
would be a gigantic task to break 
through the taboo. 

" Give me a few minutes to think, 
Bessie," he said at length. " I want 
to give the best advice I can, to think 
what is best for both you and Philip." 

And as they strolled slowly on it 
occurred to the doctor that Philip was 
in very genuine earnest about winning 
the girl for his wife, and was not 
likely to rest passive with things as 
they were ; that whether he interfered 
or not the chances were that the 
young man sooner or later would 
come at the truth, and take his own 
way then without much reference to 
the opinion of friends or relations. It 
would be better, he thought, if he 
could induce Bessie to yield him her 
confidence ; he should be judge of the 
case now while he had yet opportunity 
to tender advice to both the young 
people. 

" Bessie, you admit the decision of 
this affair would have rested with 
poor Fossdyke had he lived. Do you 
not think it would be best to look 
upon me as standing in his place ? 
True in one case, unfortunately, you 
have a painful story to tell which 
would have been spared you in the 
other ; but you know I am sincerely 
attached to Philip. I have known 
him from a child, and know his 
character thoroughly — a man very 
resolute, and difficult to turn from a 
thing when his mind is once made up, 
and he is terribly in earnest about 
marrying you. It will be no light 
thing that will stop him, and, Bessie, 
remember by your own confession he 



BESSIE'S CONFESSION 



121 



has friends in the garrison should he 
press the place hard." 

The girl smiled as she said softly, 

"Too true ; I've never denied it, 
but I'll be staunch to Philip's real 
welfare, never fear." 

" Can you not trust an old friend of 
his, a man like myself, who knows the 
world well, and who would be a much 
clearer and more dispassionate judge 
than himself, and who would not abet 
him in doing a foolish thing, to be 
judge of the case? It may be I shall 
pronounce your scruples groundless ; 
it may be I shall say, ' Bessie Hyde, 
if you have any real love for Philip, 
run away from the place, and don't 
bring social ruin on the man for whom 
you profess affection.'" 

The colour came and went in the 
girl's face, as she listened to the 
doctor's speech. He had struck the 
right key ; he ignored her and affected 
to be only anxious about Philip's wel- 
fare. That was what she wanted. 
Would any one decide between them, 
thinking only of him? If her marriage 
was pronounced possible she should 
only be too happy and thankful, but 
if for Philip's sake it were best she 
should go, she would depart without a 
murmur. 

" Dr. Ingleby," she said at length, 
"if you will promise to do that, to 
think only of Philip and never of me, 
I can perhaps muster up courage to 
tell you my story ; but, mind, I am 
never to be cause of reproach to him. 
Tell me honestly if I am right in my 
view, and, friends in the garrison not- 
withstanding, I'll take good care 
he never has chance to carry the 
place." 

" My dear Bessie, I want to do 
what I deem best for two young 
people, of whom I am very fond, but 
my first consideration here, I think, 
ought to be Phil." 

" Yes," she faltered, " you must not 
mind me. Remember, please, to be 
the woman whose sad story was hung 
round his neck, and socially drowned 
him, would be infinitely more painful 
than giving him up altogether. You 
must not forget, will you ?" 

" No," replied the doctor mechani- 
cally, "I W 'M not forget," and as the 
words passed his lips he thought to 
himself. ' I have no richt either to 



forget your negation of self or honest 
love for the man who loves you." 

" Doctor," Bessie continued, after 
a slight pause, "you must know that 
I am nameless; that I have no father; 
that I am nobody's child. You under- 
stand," said the girl in a low tone, 
as the blood rose to the roots of her 
hair, and her voice dropped almost to 
a whisper. 

"You have no father you ever knew, 
I presume ? " observed Dr. Ingleby 
inquiringly. 

" I have no father at all, I tell you," 
rejoined the girl sharply. " I am a 
love child. I have been brought up 
by my aunt, and impressed all my 
life with the disgrace of my birth. I 
have only seen my mother now and 
again. She has always been upon 
those occasions kind, tender, and 
anxious to provide me with everything 
I might want, but my stern aunt 
used to interfere with her austere 
ways and language, and remind her 
sister that when she took charge of 
me it was upon the express stipulation 
that she had control of me for good, 
and that I was not to have my head 
turned with the frivolities and fripperies 
of my mother's position. It was long 
enough before I understood what my 
mother's position was : she had run 
away from a serious family at Clap- 
ham with a theatrical gentleman, and 
had naturally taken to the same pro- 
fession. I was the unfortunate result 
of this union, if union it can be called, 
as I am afraid, Dr. Ingleby," continued 
the girl, blushing rosy red, " my 
mother never was married." 

" There is no very serious obstacle 
in all this, Bessie ; unless you have 
something much worse to tell I shall 
give you away yet, my dear." 

The girl shot him a grateful glance 
before continuing her narrative, and 
then resumed — 

" When my cousins grew up they 
were no longer to be repressed ; they 
wanted more life and gaiety, and 
speedily overruled their mother, 
which, of course, included their father, 
and got it. Dances, parties, and even 
an occasional theatre became the 
order of the day. My uncle undoubt- 
edly di'sapproved of it, but as for my 
aunt, she thought the new regime 
possessed great opportunities ol set- 



122 



AT FAULT 



tling her daughters, and sp acquiesced 
in it. Then came my offending. I 
unluckily proved more attractive than 
my cousins, and no sooner did this 
become transparent than my home 
was made unbearable to me. I was 
for ever twitted with my birth, or rather 
want of it ; and at last confided my 
troubles to Mr. Fossdyke, who was 
an old friend of my mother, and who 
often came to see me. He not only 
offered me this place of companion to 
his wife, but counselled my taking it, 
saying, " Remember, Bessie, you are 
not dependent upon these people ; 
you have to earn your own living no 
doubt, but while she lives there is 
always an allowance from your mother 
to look to ; this, of course, goes to 
your aunt at present, but will be paid 
down to yourself if you come to us. I 
shall allow you fifty pounds a year, 
which in addition to your mother's 
hundred ought to make you a well-to- 
do young woman, considering you will 
live at Dyke for nothing. And so it 
all proved." 

''Still, Bessie, you surely must know 
there is nothing very dreadful in all 
this. Illegitimacy is no such terrible 
stigma in these times ; if there are 
people who would carp at it, there are 
plenty of others who would laugh at 
the idea of its being any ban to 
marriage or social advancement of any 
sort in these days." 

" But my mother is an actress," 
said Bessie in low tones. 

" That may sound very terrible to 
your fantastical aunt and uncle, but to 
people who live in the world that is 
nothing now-a-days. Indeed, from 
the time of the Stuarts down to that 
of Her present Gracious Majesty, 
royalty and nobility have always had 
a great admiration for the ladies of 
the theatrical profession. Who is 
she ? I mean what is her stage 
name ? " 

" Miss Nydia Willoughby," rejoined 
Bessie, with eyes rivetted on the 
ground. 

" Miss Nydia Willoughby ; let me 
see ; dear me, I know the name. 
Where did I hear it ? I don't think I 
ever saw her." 

" That is her stage name, and I 
believe she sings at the Syringa 
Music Hall." 



" Good heavens, the Syringa ! Why, 
that is the place of which this James 
Foxborough is the proprietor." 

"Yes, and my mother is Mrs. James 
Foxborough," faltered Bessie in a 
low tone. 

To say that Dr. Ingleby was as- 
tounded at this last revelation really 
did not describe that gentleman's 
state. He was completely stupefied 
by the announcement, and for a 
minute or two remained silent. At 
last he said, " Foxborough is not your 
father, though ? " 

"No, I tell you I never knew my 
father. I never saw my mother until 
the year before I came here, except 
quite as a child, and saw as I told you 
but little then of her. Mr. Fossdyke, 
who was her man of business, and an 
old friend, called upon me about 
twice a year as a child, and perhaps a 
little oftener as I grew up ; and now, 
Dr. Ingleby, you know my history. 
With the stain I bear upon my name, 
how could I marry Philip ? and the 
last awful tragedy has made matters 
still worse ; I am the step-daughter of 
the murderer of one of his most inti- 
mate friends, though I never even 
saw the miserable man." 

" My dear Bessie," said the doctor 
after a slight pause, " I tell you fairly, 
I am so bewildered by what you have 
told me that I don't think at present, 
I am quite a clear judge of the cir- 
cumstances. In all your story it is 
not quite evident to me there is any 
impediment to your marrying Philip. 
You acted like an honest girl wtien 
you said you could not consent to do 
so until he knew your history ; that 
you should shrink from telling it was 
only natural. Still Philip alone can 
decide upon this matter. There is 
nothing in reality against yourself, 
and if you follow my advice you will 
keep your own counsel. It is not 
necessary that, with the exception of 
Philip, any one in Baumborough 
should know more about you than 
they do at present. If you give per- 
mission, I shall make him acquainted 
with your story ; but otherwise, of 
course, my lips are sealed." 

" Yes, Dr. Ingleby, I should wish 
Philip to know all I have told you. It 
will convince him, at all events, that I 
am no heartless coquette. Give him, 



THE PHOTOGRAPH 



123 



give him my love, and say I wish it 
1 mild have been otherwise ; but he 
will now see the impossibility of my 
saying other than 1 h.ive done." 

" Good-bye, Bessie," rejoined Dr. 
Ingleby as they reached the gate. 
" You have a staunch friend in me, 
whatever may be your future lot ; and 
reme iber, my dear, 1 shall h el proud 
to gr? e you away yet, and claim the 
privilege should it come to pass." 

Bessie Hyde made no reply in 
words, but her eyes thanked the 
doctor with mute eloquence as they 
shook hands. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

THE PHOTOGRAPH 

As Dr. Ingleby walked back to 
Baumborough and turned Bessie's 
story over in his mind he could not 
but reflect that his own situation was 
now just a little awkward. Pre- 
possessed as he was in the girl's 
favour, and believing thoroughly that 
there was nothing which could be 
alleged against Miss Hyde herself, 
still it was impossible to shut one's 
eyes to the fact that she would hardly 
be deemed a desirable connection by 
any respectable family. There was 
not only that matter of her birth, bdt 
the very unfortunate accusation under 
which her stepfather at present lay. 
Old Mr. Soames and his wife might 
fairly resent the encouraging of their 
son in such a marriage, and the 
doctor felt very loth to give cause of 
offence to such old friends. He was 
bound to tell Philip this story, and 
had a strong idea that the chivalry of 
the young man's character would only 
lead him to cling more closely to his 
sweetheart in her trouble. Well, it 
could not be helped ; Philip was a 
man of thirty, and if he could not 
decide for himself now, would he ever 
be fit to do so ? He would get a good 
wife in Bessie, even if her antecedents 
should be deemed a little against her, 
and, moreover, as these had been 
kept a secret for two years, why 
should they not continue such? He 
could trust himself not to speak. 



Philip would naturally for Bessie's 

sake keep silence, whilst as for Ser- 
geant Usher the doctor had early 
taken stock of that officer's open, can- 
did disposition, and rightly deemed 
that he could be close and dumb as 
an oyster upon anything of impor- 
tance ; the confidences he made were 
for the most part of the most innocent 
and milk-and-watery description, and 
might have pretty well been arrived 
at by diligent perusal of the journds. 

That Philip Soames would call that 
evening Dr. Ingleby felt assured, and 
that Sergeant Usher would do like- 
"wise he thought was more than prob- 
able. He was not deceived ; he had 
not long finished his solitary dinner, 
and was sitting over his wine and 
walnuts, when Phil made his appear 
ance. 

" Well, doctor, have you any news 
for me ? " he asked anxiously, as he 
took a chair and responded to the 
mute invitation contained by the 
pushed-across decanter, and filled his 
glass. 

"Yes," replied Dr. Ingleby, "I 
have. Whether good or bad is for 
your own self to determine. I am 
prepared to tell you the whole of Miss 
Hyde's history. I may promise at 
once there is nothing against herself, 
but many men might hesitate about 
marrying her. You, Phil, are old 
enough to judge for yourself. I in- 
tend to tell you her story simply, and 
to counsel you neither one way nor 
the other," and then without further 
preamble Dr. Ingleby narrated Bessie's 
account of herself. 

Phil Soames listened attentively, 
but interposed never a word, though 
he could not suppress a start when he 
heard that Bessie was the illegitimate 
daughter of James Foxborough's wife. 
He waited patiently till the doctor 
had finished, and then said, 

" Thanks no end, my dear old 
friend, for what you have done for 
me. We have agreed not to discuss 
this subject, but that is no reason I 
should not tell you what I shall do. 
All this makes no difference in my 
feelings with regard to Miss Hyde. I 
only honour her more for the delicacy 
and regard she has displayed towards 
myself. I shall marry her, for I don't 
think when I ask her again, with full 



124 



AT FAULT 



knowledge of her story, she will say 
me nay any longer. I don't mean 
just at once, you know ; she couldn't 
well do that so soon after John Foss- 
dyke's death, but as soon as the con- 
ventionalities allow, and, doctor, I 
don't think it is necessary my future 
wife's history should go any further.'' 

" Certainly not ; and you may trust 
me in that respect ; but remember we 
are half pledged to let Sergeant Usher 
know the result. Still, 1 consider that 
a question for your decision, and 
would only remark that I think you 
may rely upon his making very dis- 
creet use of the information." • 

" I had rather it went no further 
than ourselves," rejoined Phil slowly. 

" As you will," replied the doctor ; 
" only remember so far, the sergeant 
has shown much feeling and thought- 
fulness in dealing with the ladies at 
Dyke. If we refuse to take him into 
our confidence he may discover, and 
very likely will, the whole thing for 
himself, and is then of course in no 
way bound to show any particular dis- 
cretion in dealing with the inform- 
ation. If we let him into the secret of 
Miss Hyde's history of which remem- 
ber he is already on the trail, I think 
he will make no public use of it, 
except in the last extremity." 

At this moment the door opened, 
and the servant inquired if the doctor 
would see Mr. Usher, and after that 
official's wont he followed so close 
upon the heels of his own announce- 
ment as to pretty well preclude the 
possibility of denial. 

" Good evening, gentlemen. I have 
just called in to tell you I can gather 
no particle of information that is to be 
called reliable about Foxborough in 
this town. No one, you see, really 
knew him by sight. Now, doctor, 
have you got anything for me ?" 

"Sit down, sergeant, and help your- 
self to a glass of port," and as Mr. 
Usher complied Dr. Ingleby cast an 
inquiring glance. 

" Quite so, sir ; I understand," ex- 
claimed that worthy, whose quick eye 
little escaped that came beneath it. 

" Now, gentlemen, I'm not such a 
fool as to be obtrusive, but I see 
you've got the information I seek, 
though you can't quite make up your 
minds to let me share it. You canno: 



suppose I would make things un- 
pleasant for Miss Hyde. Although 
what she has told you may be of great 
use to me, it strikes me as most im- 
probable that her name will ever 
appear. Of course 1 can't say for 
certain till I know what it is, but I 
can promise this, Mr. Soames, that 
nothing but the most extreme neces- 
sity will permit me to bring Miss 
Hyde's name into the case." Phil 
looked Mr. Usher straight in the face 
for a moment, but the sergeant's keen 
grey eyes never faltered, and then 
turning to the doctor he said curtly, 
" Tell him everything." 

Dr. Ingleby without further delay 
narrated Bessie's history, to which the 
sergeant listened without comment. 

" I don't think, gentlemen," he said, 
as the doctor concluded, " that this is 
likely to be of any use to me, though 
it unexpectedly may be. It is very 
unlikely, indeed, that Miss Hyde will 
ever be called upon with regard to 
this case further than possibly to 
testify that the dagger was not Mr. 
Fossdyke's property. As to what the 
doctor has just done me the honour to 
confide to me, my lips, gentlemen, 
are sealed. But, Mr. Soames, has 
one singular coincidence in this affair 
struck you?" 

"No; what do you mean? " cried 
Phil. 

" That you and your friend, Mr. 
Morant, should be each courting a 
daughter of Mrs. Foxborough." 

" It never occurred to me before, 
but it is extraordinary," exclaimed 
Soames ; " but how on earth did you 
know it ? " 

" Well, if you'll excuse my making 
so bold, it's no secret that you are 
sweet on Miss Hyde in Baumbor- 
ough. Watching Foxborough's house, 
as of course we've done very close, 
showed us that Mr. Morant was Miss 
Foxborough's lover, and of course at 
the inquest I saw you knew each 
other perfectly well, and the rest is 
very simple, that you were old univer- 
sity chums, and a slight knowledge of 
your previous lives was not difficult to 
come by." 

" And do you always study people 
after this fashion ? " asked Philip, 
half angry, half amused. 

" Only when they have the distinc- 



THE PHOTOGRAPH 



125 



tion of being concerned in what I 
consider a great case," rejoined the 
sergeant, gravely rising ; " and now, 
gentlemen, with many thanks for 
your kindness, I have the honour to 
wish you good-night." 

Soames was not long before he 
followed the sergeant's example, and 
also betook himself homewards. 
Phil lived with his father and mother, 
but in a low wing or rather leg of the 
house that had been run out expressly 
for his accommodation. He had a 
separate entrance, a sort of half ante- 
room, half business-room, and a 
library, study, smoking-room, or what 
you please to call it, on the ground 
floor. Above were two excellent bed- 
rooms and a bath-room. Having 
turned up his lamp Phil lit another 
cigar and began to reflect on the 
events of the evening. It was curi- 
ous — deuced curious — that coinci- 
dence, as the sergeant described it. 
To think that he and Herbert Morant 
were going to marry sisters, at all 
events half-sisters ; and then it oc- 
curred to Phil, why on earth should 
he not have Herbert down at once, 
and put in motion those schemes for 
that young gentleman's redemption 
which had crossed his brain before 
the miserable tragedy of John Foss- 
dyke's took place? How little did 
he think when Morant said at the 
inquest it was odd that the murdered 
man should be a friend of Phil 
Soames, while the daughter of the 
presumed murderer was the girl him- 
self aspired to marry, that they were 
in love with half-sisters. Phil was a 
man of decision. Half a dozen more 
turns in the room, and some slight 
more consumption of tobacco, and 
seating himself at his writing-table, 
he wrote to Herbert Morant, saying 
he should now be delighted to see 
him at once. It would be rather 
pleasant, he thought, as he directed 
and stamped his letter, to have a 
chum with whom to talk matters over 
a bit, and then he wondered whether 
it would be unwise to tell Bessie's 
story to Morant, who, no doubt, was 
in perfect ignorance concerning it. 
No matter, he wanted to do his old 
friend a turn, and had not two old 
friends in love constant food for dis- 
course. They would smoke, talk of 



their sweethearts and poor Herbert's 
future till the grey of the morning, 
more especially as Phil really did see 
his way into opening a career for that 
careless spendthrift, always providing 
he was willing to put his shoulder to 
the wheel in earnest. 

When Herbert got that message he 
read it with mingled feelings of exulta- 
tion and despondency. He was jubi- 
lant at the idea of really making a start 
in the world, but he was low at the 
idea of having to leave Nid and her 
mother in their troubles. Still it was 
impossible to doubt what it behoved 
him to do ; he could be but of nega- 
tive use to Mrs. Foxborough, except 
that his daily visit brightened her 
now somewhat sombre life, and was 
of course of much consequence to 
Nid, he could really do nothing for 
them. The Bunbury mystery was 
for the present in abeyance, and Mrs. 
Foxborough's theory that her hus- 
band was dead had gradually ob- 
tained considerable hold of Herbert's 
mind. He had a sorrowful good-bye 
to say at Tapton Cottage ; Nid clung 
to him, and declared it was cowardly 
of him to leave her in her misery, but 
Mrs. Foxborough had more strength 
of character. She rated her daughter 
pretty sharply for her selfishness, 
thanked Herbert for all he had been 
to them in their affliction, and bade 
him " God speed " in search of for- 
tune with a face half smiles, half 
tears ; reminding him that Baum- 
borough was within very easy dis- 
tance of London, and that she should 
have no scruples about sending for 
him if she had need of him. Under 
which assurance, and with a tearful 
embrace from Nid, Herbert bade 
good-bye, and set forth to see what 
sort of career that might be that dear 
old Phil had to suggest for him — 
hazy, very, concerning what this 
career should be, but firmly convinced 
that an alarum clock and early rising 
were most important factors in all 
starts of a commercial description. 

Very glad indeed was Phil Soames 
to welcome his old university chum ; 
he had always been very fond of 
Herbert when they were at college 
together, having for him that strong 
liking so often conceived by the man 
of strong character for his weaker 



126 



AT FAULT 



brother, and Herbert Morant was 
essentially one of that class— a con- 
tinuous doer of foolish things, but no 
chronicle of anything mean or black- 
guardly against him. And so Herbert 
had continued till the present, with 
nothing against him but want of ver- 
tebra in his character. 

The greeting between the pair was 
genuinely cordial, and Herbert having 
been duly presented to the old people, 
and dinner being concluded, they ad- 
journed to Phil's peculiar domain for 
a cigar and gossip. 

" I want to have a real good talk 
with you, old man," said Herbert, as 
he took possession of an easy-chair ; 
" have wanted it indeed for some 
time. I have been a lazy purposeless 
beggar all my life, but I've got some- 
thing to work for now, and I mean to 
begin just as soon as ever I can see 
my way. If Foxborough did kill 
Fossdyke I believe it was done in hot 
blood, and any way I am going to 
stand by his daughter. I told her 1 
loved her before her father had this 
charge laid at his door, and no one 
can suppose I'm going to be such a 
pitiful cur as to abandon her in her 
trouble." 

" No, Herbert, I know you too well 
to think that of you, and you might 
know that I was not speaking at ran- 
dom when I asked you to come down 
here. We have an opening for you 
in our business, and I consider it 
worth your consideration. It will 
take you a good six months to master 
the routine, and by that time we shall 
know if you will suit us, and you will 
know whether the work will suit you." 
While Philip was speaking, Morant 
had taken up from the table a small 
photograph book, and was idly 
fiddling with the clasps, undoing 
them and snapping them to again. 

" It is awfully good of you to give 
me such a chance," he exclaimed, as 
the other paused. 

"Yes, it is a chance ; might quite 
possibly lead to a junior partnership 
in the firm ; but mind, Herbert, it 
must depend a good deal upon your- 
self. If we can't make you a busi- 
ness man in that time there is no 
more to be said. We cannot afford to 
make you a sleeping partner. You 
must put your neck to the collar, and 



pull your fair share of the waggon 
If you are ever to participate in the 
profits you must be a bond fide work- 
ing partner." 

" I'm going to make no protesta- 
tions, Phil. I can only say try me, 
and as for sleep, sir, I've brought 
down an alarum clock that will 
effectually attend to all that. With 
Nid to work for I should be a brute 
to neglect such a chance." 

While he spoke he had opened the 
photograph book, and was carelessly 
turning over the pages. Suddenly he 
exclaimed, " Great heavens, Phil ! 
how did you come by this ? " 

"What is it? That?" he replied 
gravely, as Herbert showed him the 
photograph that had arrested his at- 
tention, — "that is a likeness of poor 
Fossdyke." 

" Extraordinary ! " exclaimed Her- 
bert. " I could have sworn it was 
meant for James Foxborough, and 
was a very excellent photo. The two 
men must have been the very image 
of each other." 

And Morant and Soames stared at 
each other in blank amazement. 



CHAPTER XXV 

"sergeant usher's views" 

" Of course you never saw John Foss- 
dyke," said Phil, after a pause of some 
minutes' duration. 

" Certainly not ; nor you, as I un- 
derstand, Foxborough. The likeness 
is odd, devilish odd," rejoined Morant. 

Phil Soames smoked on musingly 
for some seconds, and then said : 

" It's a curious thing that this extra- 
ordinary likeness between the two 
men has never been touched on as 
yet by any witness in the case. You 
were present at the inquest, and know 
it was never alluded to. You're quite 
sure you're making no mistake ?" 

" Quite ; if you had not told me that 
was the photograph of Mr. Fossdyke, 
I'd have sworn to its being a likeness 
of Foxborough." 

Once again did Phil Soames medi- 
tate before he spoke, as if phlegmatic 
and slow of thought, as the tradi- 
tional Dutchman. Then he said : 

" This is a bit of information that I 



SERGEANT USHERS VIEWS 



127 



don't consider I am entitled to com- 
municate to the police without your 
sanction ; but, Herbert, Sergeant 
Usher, of the Criminal Investigation 
Department, who has charge of the 
case, is in the town at the present 
moment, and 1 have an idea that he 
would consider this important." 

" Why ? " rejoined Morant briefly. 

" Well, there you beat me," replied 
Phil. " I don't know ; it's a mere 
idea of my own, but I'll confess to 
being considerably impressed with 
Sergeant Usher. He seems to me, to 
use Mark Twain's expression, a light- 
ning detective." 

" That may be, but, my dear Phil, 
situated as I am with the Foxborough 
family, it is not clear to me that as- 
sisting a lightning detective at this 
moment would be for their benefit 
altogether." 

" Certainly not, if you believe Fox- 
borough guilty, but you have already 
to-night avowed your total disbelief 
in his criminality. If you stand by 
that the discovering of the truth is 
most desirable for his sake. I go for 
seeing the thing fairly out, and I have 
a right to speak ; little as you may 
think it, Herbert, we are almost in the 
same boat." 

"The same boat ! Why, what on 
earth do you mean ?" exclaimed Mor- 
ant. 

" It's rather a singular thing, Her- 
bert ; and the knowledge only came 
to me some two days ago, but the 
girl I hope to make my wife is a half- 
sister of Miss Foxborough." 

" Impossible 1 James Foxborough 
has only one child — his daughter 
Kid." 

" That may be, but Mrs. Fox- 
borough had a daughter before she 
ever married Foxborough — a child 
who has been brought up by her 
mother's sister. I don't wish to go 
further into her history than this. I 
only mention it now to show that I 
have almost equal right with you to 
decide upon what use we shall make 
of the discovery we have just made. 
If Foxborough is an innocent man, 
the more light thrown upon poor 
Fossdyke's tragical end, the better 
for him ; and then, again, we have no 
moral right to suppress an important 
piece of testimony like this." 



" Hum ! I don't know ; I've a sor|t 
of idea that standing staunch to one's 
pals is a primary duty in life, and I 
don't think I should bother myself 
much about moral obligations when 
fulfilling them threatened to turn to 
their detriment." 

" I don't believe, as I said before, 
that this will be-to James Foxborough's 
detriment. Like you, I hold that even 
if he was the man who caused poor 
Fossdyke's death it was a case of 
manslaughter and not deliberate mur- 
der ; but remember that, except the 
one fact of the identification of the 
weapon, the evidence against Fox- 
borough is all somewhat conjectural. 
Look here, we will submit this in the 
first place to Dr. Ingleby, and ask his 
advice about it." 

" I don't half like it, Phil," rejoined 
Morant gloomily, "and wish I had 
never seen your confounded photo- 
graph book." 

" But you have, you see ; you have 
virtually given a bit of evidence im- 
possible to recall. I cannot tell you 
why I think it important, but I do.'' 

" Now," rejoined Herbert, " I'll give 
in. I know these two things — that 
your head is better than mine, and 
that you are sure to do what you think 
best for both the Foxboroughs and 
ourselves. That's so; isn't it?" ad- 
ded Morant somewhat nervously. 

" Not a doubt, old man. Playing 
straight may be playing bold, but it's 
very often marvellously effective." 

As usual the stronger spirit had 
carried his point, and before the pair 
separated that Dr. Ingleby should be 
informed of the curjous discovery was 
thoroughly settled. 

Morant was somewhat astonished 
at the importance the doctor ap- 
peared to attach to it, indeed it seemed 
of more consequence in other people's 
eyes a good deal than his own, but Dr. 
Ingleby was quite clear on the one 
point that it ought to be communicated 
to Sergeant Usher without delay, and 
the sergeant was accordingly at once 
sent for. The message found Mr. 
Usher in somewhat gloomy cogitation. 
The story of Miss Hyde he had no 
doubt was a piece in the puzzle, but by 
no means a prominent one, and he 
was just as far as ever from arriving 
at one of those centre-pieces upon 



128 



AT FAULT 



which those pictured problems in- 
variably depend. 

" We have a bit of news for you, 
sergeant," said Dr. Ingleby as Mr. 
Usher entered the room. " Sit down 
and listen to what we have to tell 
you." 

" Good evening, gentlemen," re- 
plied the sergeant, with a compre- 
hensive bow, and without further 
speech Mr. Usher quietly seated him- 
self. In his vocation the sergeant was 
perfectly aware of the supreme ad- 
vantage of the listener, more especially 
of that very rare specimen, the at- 
tentive listener. Was not his business 
to acquire information, not to dispense 
it ? Loquacity as a rule leaked ; 
silence absorbed. But that Dr. 
Ingleby's account of the extraordinary 
likeness of John Fossdyke and his 
reputed murderer interested the 
sergeant there could be little doubt 
with any one acquainted with that 
officer's peculiarities. His quick grey 
eyes glistened as the doctor recounted 
Morant's curious mistake about 
Fossdyke's photograph. He uttered 
no word till Dr. Ingleby had finished, 
and then said quietly, " Would Mr. 
Morant permit me to ask him a ques- 
tion or two ?" 

" Certainly," replied Herbert. 

" You know Mr. Foxborough well ?" 

" Fairly so ; I have seen him a good 
many times, but I wouldn't swear to 
twenty, remember." 

"No matter. You cannot be mis- 
taken about his identity?" 

" Certainly not ! I know him quite 
well enough to be perfectly sure of 
recognising him should I ever meet 
him again, unless, of course, dis- 
guised." 

"Thank you, Mr. Morant. Now, 
Mr. Soames, I am going to ask you 
to lend me Mr. Fossdyke's carte-de- 
visite ; if you have any objection, no 
doubt I can get it in the town. I don't 
suppose you have." 

" Not at all," replied Phil, " I have 
brought it in my pocket on purpose ; 
here it is." 

The sergeant looked at it attentively, 
and then said, " I never saw this poor 
gentleman alive, but I should call this 
an excellent photograph." 

" Undoubtedly," rejoined Phil. 

"' Excellent," echoed Dr. Ingleby. 



" Now, gentlemen," said Sergeant 
Usher, " you are entitled to know what 
I think of all this. Two of you are, 
at all events, I presume, somewhat 
interested in proving James Fox- 
borough an innocent man. Well, you 
never did him or his a better turn than 
you have done to-night. I have not 
ciphered it all out in my own head 
yet, but I fancy this means what they 
call at St. Stephen's, when the Govern- 
ment works round and takes up the 
politics of the party it has turned out, 
' a new departure.' " 

" You don't seem to think much of 
the principles of our legislators," ob- 
served the doctor, laughing. 

" Lord, sir," rejoined the sergeant, 
" I never troubles my head about 
politics ; all I meant was that, whether 
they were Whigs or Tories, Radicals 
or Irish members, their policy is pretty 
much that of the gentry I pass my 
life in opposition to, one of expediency. 
They pass acts of spoliation or levy 
taxes just as my clients commit 
burglaries or pick pockets. The 
necessities of the moment must be 
complied with, and whether it's supper 
or place, a man goes for what he wants 
badly. But good-night, gentlemen. I 
shall have something to tell you 
before forty-eight hours are over, 
unless I am very much mistaken. It's 
been an intricate puzzle all along, but 
it's coming out, although I don't pre- 
tend I see it as yet. Once more, 
good-night, gentlemen." 

"You agree with me this is impor- 
tant evidence, doctor," said Phil, as 
the street door closed upon the ser- 
geant. 

"It must be, when we come to think 
of it. This extraordinary likeness 
between the two men cannot have 
been overlooked. Yet the people at 
the Hopbine never alluded to it, nor 
could the mysterious stranger who sat 
nextTotterdell have been Foxborough. 
Neither Totterdell nor any of the 
Baumborough people could have over- 
looked such a startling likeness as this 
seems to have been. It must either 
have been some other Foxborough — 
somebody who assumed his name — or 
he must have had a confederate." 

They continued to talk over the 
affair in somewhat desultory fashion 
for some time, but got no further than 



MR. CUDEMORE'S MANOEUVRES 



129 



they should all be extremely anxious 
to hear what Scry ant Usher might 
have t<> tell them when he next conde- 
scended to be confidential. The doc- 
tor alone knew how very little was 
comprehended in the sergeant's confi- 
dences, and thought it was more than 
possible that Mr. Usher's next com- 
munication would contain nothing, 
but that he did lay considerable stress 
on the night's news the doctor felt no 
manner of doubt. 

The sergeant, as he walked home- 
wards, turned this "latest intelligence" 
over in his mind, and became more 
impressed with its importance the 
more he thought about it. " There 
can be no doubt whatever now about 
the confederate," he muttered. " In 
fact, although Foxborough likely 
enough instigated the murder, it is 
quite open to question whether he had 
anything to do with it personally. 
Armed with that large command of 
ready money to which Mr. Sturton 
testified, hecould purchase the services 
of almost any scoundrel he chose, and 
nothing is more probable than it was 
something connected with Miss Hyde's 
history caused his compassing Foss- 
dyke's death. The latter might have 
been Miss Willoughby's first lover, 
and Miss Hyde the consequence of 
that affair. That is probably the case, 
and what led Foxborough to seek his 
life is easy of explanation on those 
grounds. It's curious, and it never 
seems to have struck any of those 
gentlemen as yet, that we have not so 
far fallen upon any witness that knew 
both men, and yet there were two or 
three people present at that inquest, 
Mr. Morant one, who, had they viewed 
the body, must have been at once 
struck with the marvellous likeness to 
the accused. Totterdell, without 
further questioning, is conclusive evi- 
dence that Foxborough was not 
present at the opening of the Baum- 
bomugh Theatre. He could not 
possibly have overlooked such a like- 
ness as this. He is a wandering, very 
wandering witness, but he tries to tell 
the truth as far as his conceit and 
natural tendency to talk will allow 
him. It strikes me that I had better 
be off to town to-morrow and see if 
any of the people at the Syringa 
recognise this extraordinary likeness." 



The sergeant was a man of decision, 
and the first train next morning saw 
him on his way to London. He had 
slept on the thing, and thought it well 
out, and arrived at the conclusion that 
further fishing at present in the some- 
what stagnant waters of Runbury and 
liaumborough would be productive of 
no results, but that his casting-net 
next time must be thrown into the 
wide ocean of the metropolitan waters. 
The confederate, or rather the real 
perpetrator of the crime, was the man 
he wanted. Foxborough at most 
could be but an accessory in the eye 
of the law, although probably the 
instigator of the murder, and that he 
had tied the country Mr. Usher began 
to deem probable. That the principal 
ports had been closely watched was a 
matter of course, but that his brethren 
had been beaten before in this respect 
the sergeant was only too well aware 
of. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

MR. CUDEMORE'S MANOEUVRES 

Sergeant Usher, arrived in town, 
lost no time in making his inquiries. 
Herbert Morant is confirmed in every 
respect. People perfectly conversant 
with the appearance of James Fox- 
borough recognise the photograph for 
him at once, and these are officials 
at the Syringa for the most part, who 
all disclaim any knowledge whatever 
of Mr. Fossdyke, and deny ever 
having heard his name till his sad fate 
put it in all men's mouths. Sergeant 
Usher begins to have a shrewd sus- 
picion of the truth, but is more puzzled 
than ever as to the identity of the 
mysterious stranger who graced the 
opening of the Baumborough Theatre 
with his presence, and yet the sergeant 
has little doubt that he was the chief 
actor in the tragedy. For the present 
Mr. Usher is at fault ; quite undecided, 
indeed, as in what direction to make a 
fresh cast for the recovery of the trail. 
He has called at Scotland Yard to 
report himself, and learnt that they 
have no tidings whatever of James 
Foxborough. Mr. Usher is not much 
surprised at that ; he does not think 
it probable that any clue to Fox- 

E 



t30 



Al FAULT 



borough's lurking-place will be picked 
up by his brethren, but has a strong 
suspicion that he himself can indicate 
where he is when necessary. In the 
meantime he wants the accomplice, or 
the Foxborough of the Hopbine, who 
tvidently was not James Foxborough 
of the Syringa Music Hall. " It is 
very odd," mutters the sergeant, " but 
here I arn carrying about in my poc- 
ket-book what would probably identify 
him in a moment if I could only hit 
off the right person to submit it to. 
This note addressed to the dead man 
is in no disguised hand, and there are 
doubtless plenty of people could 
identify it if I only knew 'em. Both 
Foxborough's bankers and the stage 
laanager of the Syringa don't see any 
attempt at simulating his hand, and 
from the writing they showed me I 
also should say there was no effort at 
imitation. It only wants a little think- 
ing out. Query, was Miss Hyde the 
cause of the murder? Why should 
she be ? She is not Foxborough's 
own daughter, and John Fossdyke 
from all accounts has been an ex- 
ceedingly good friend to her. I know 
a little more about the thing than any 
one else, but I admit I am still quite 
in the dark as to who committed the 
murder, if murder it was, and why he 
did it." 

" Let me see," muttered the ser- 
geant, as he once more sat medita- 
tively smoking over his own fireside. 
" Why did Foxborough want all that 
money he borrowed ? I don't know 
as yet, but I fancy I can get at that. 
Next, what has become of Fox- 
borough ? I feel pretty certain I can 
get at that. Then, how did the dagger 
of Foxborough, with which Fossdyke 
was undoubtedly killed, arrive at the 
Hopbine? Lastly, who was the Fox- 
borough who went down to stay 
at the Hopbine, went to the Baum- 
borough Theatre, invited Fossdyke 
to dine, and undoubtedly caused 
his death ? I have got his handwrit- 
ing, which he doesn't know. I've got 
plenty of witnesses to his identity, 
which he undoubtedly does know, and 
I feel pretty sure that he has never 
left the country. Further, I have 
made a discovery of which he is not 
likely to get a hint, and upon which 
he must principally rely as his safe- 



guard. It's a good game, a very good 
game," exclaimed Mr. Usher, "but I'll 
give checkmate for a crown before it is 
over." 

It was a very jubilant evening in 
Tapton Cottage when Morant's letter 
from Baumborough reached them. 

"My darling Nid," wrote Herbert, 
" I cannot tell you what, nor could you 
understand its importance any more 
than I do, but we have made a dis- 
covery about that miserable Bunbury 
affair, which the celebrated detective 
in charge of the case deems of the 
greatest consequence to your father. 
He told Phil Soames, in my presence, 
that nobody had served your father 
better than we had in accidentally bring- 
ing to light the trivial circumstance 
we did. I can't explain it, Nid, be- 
cause I don't in the least understand 
its importance for one thing, and I'm 
bid hold my tongue for another, though 
I suppose you would say that couldn't 
possibly apply to you. Any way, 
dearest, tell your mother it's good 
news, and that I feel sure your father 
will be fully exonerated. Dear old 
Phil has made me a splendid offer, 
and holds open to me a choice that I 
shall deserve kicking if I fail to avail 
myself of. Did you ever hear of a 
beer king, mademoiselle ? You are, I 
trust, destined to be a beer queen. 
Shall you be awfully shocked at treat- 
ing our friends to beakers of Soames 
and Morant's extra, or urging them to 
try just one glass of the Philerbertian 
stout ? The invention of that com- 
posite name is my first great stroke in 
the business. As for the alarum about 
which you chaff me, there is a hatred 
between us as yet too deep for expres- 
sion, but he is master, and I obey 
his brutal behests implicitly. Time, 
not his time, may bring about a recon- 
ciliation, but his horrible indifference 
at this season to the glories of sun- 
shine are disgusting. He often 
appeals to me to be up and about long 
before it. 

" God bless you, Nid ; remember you 
are to be a breweress, so don't adopt the 
blue ribbon, not the Garter, the other 
one, nor turn up your pretty nose at 
oysters and stout. I never did even be- 
fore I was one of the initiated malt and 
hops brethren. Love to your mother, 



MR. CUDEMORE' S MANOEUVRES 



131 



and tell her, though I cannot explain 
it, our best news is good news.— Ever, 
dearest Nid, your very own, 

" Herbert." 

Yes, a letter like this was certain to 
spread joy through Tapton Cottage. 
It was good news to both ladies, and 
the bright flush of happiness in her 
daughter's face could not fail to evolve 
some sympathy from such an es- 
sentially sympathetic woman as Mrs. 
Foxborough. She warmly congratu- 
lated her daughter. 

" 1 think I understand Herbert, 
Nid," she said ; " and a man such as 
he has described Mr. Soames will be 
the making of him." 

" Air. Cudemore, ma'am," said Eliza 
Salter as she entered the room, 
" wishes to know if he can see you for 
five minutes ? " 

"Well, he can't see me," cried Nid ; 
" I hate the sight of him. Oh ! you 
poor mother, I am so sorry for you, but 
I must run away. Herbert's the only 
' disagreeable ' I ever take off your 
hands, and he, of course, has a claim 
for his pretended gallantry while I was 
insensible. I have no doubt it was 
the park-keeper really rescued me, 
and that he regarded the conflict from 
a safe distance." 

" You don't believe anything of the 
sort, you silly child," replied her mo- 
ther, smiling ; " but [if you don't want 
to see Mr. Cudemore you had better 
vanish, because I must see him. He 
has come, I know, on a matter of 
business. Off with you." 

"Show him up, Eliza." 

Nid gathered up her skirts and fled 
precipitately, while Eliza proceeded to 
fulfil her mistress's behest. 

" Good morning, Mrs. Foxborough," 
said Cudemore as he entered. " I 
am excessively sorry to have to intrude 
upon you at such an unfortunate mo- 
ment as this, but business unluckily 
refuses to be postponed, and your 
husband's either ill-timed or misjudged 
absence has occasioned an unpleasant 
complication which necessitates my 
appealing to you." 

" Pray sit down, I am quite willing 
to hear what you have to say," rejoined 
Mrs. Foxborough, who had no very 
favourable opinion of the money-lender. 
She knew Mr. Cudemore had, though 



in urbane manner, most rigidly ex- 
acted his pound of flesh on former 
occasions. She knew that he was 
their creditor now for a very large sum, 
about the investment of which she had 
no conception. She had bowed 
meekly to her husband's decision to 
borrow it. It was not wanted to sus- 
tain the Syringa, she knew, but about 
his provincial speculations she was in 
total ignorance. He had at times 
made money out of them, undoubtedly ; 
without one of his provincial com- 
panies they never could have mustered 
the money necessary to start the 
Syringa, and that they had been 
obliged to borrow money besides, she 
was only too painfully aware. Mr. 
Cudemore had been a very exacting 
bloodsucker in the early days of that 
concern ; paid off at last, but, as Mrs. 
Foxborough ruefully remembered, 
once more a terrible creditor. 

" It is most unpleasant for me, of 
course, and more especially under the 
peculiar circumstances ; but please 
remember, Mrs. Foxborough, I am only 
the unwilling mouthpiece of others. 
Your husband's absence has frightened 
the people who have advanced him 
this last money on the security of 
the Syringa, and my instructions are 
simply to give notice of their inten- 
tion to withdraw the mortgage at the 
end of six months. You can't sup- 
pose, Mrs. Foxborough, that I wish 
to be disagreeable, and should you 
deem'this inconvenient, I shall be'happy 
to give you my assistance in raising it 
elsewhere." 

" That, of course, Mr. Cudemore, 
will be a thing for future consideration. 
In the meantime I can only thank 
you for your good intentions." 

But Mr. Cudemore was not to be 
got rid of like this. He had by no 
means said his say as yet ; in fact, 
this was mere skirmishing. The 
battle royal is not always fought at 
our own discretion, but we at all 
events can endeavour to exercise 
some pressure about bringing it about. 

" I think you had better take me 
into your confidence," he urged. 
" These people may get impatient when 
the time comes, and if you don't find 
them their money foreclose, and you 
would lose possession of the Syringa." 

" But how can I take you or any one 



132 



AT FAULI 



else into my confidence when I am in 
total ignorance myself? If I have to 
find the money at the expiration of the 
time, and can't, well then I suppose 
the Syringa and 1 must part. But it 
is most uniikely my husband made 
away with such a large sum as ^6,000. 
Some of it, of course, he may have 
spent, but I am sure there is some- 
thing to show for it. He invested it 
in some manner, and 1 think before 
the time you mention it is probable I 
shall discover where he is, or whether 
he is alive. I don't know, but I am 
quite sure he never committed the 
crime laid to his charge, and I hear 
the police are coming to the same 
opinion." 

" I am very glad to hear it," replied 
Mr. Cudemore suavely, "but I need 
scarcely say I can have no wish to 
touch upon so painful a subject. Still 
there are circumstances under which 
I could find you the money." 

" It will be time enough to discuss 
those circumstances when the neces- 
sity for finding the money arises," re- 
joined the lady sharply. 

Whatever his design, Mr. Cude- 
more felt that he could not prosecute 
it any further for the present, and took 
his departure. 

" The miserable trickster," said Mrs. 
Foxborough as her eyes sparkled. 
" He means he would find the money 
if I gave him Nid, as if I wouldn't see 
the child dead and the Syringa 
burnt first. I wonder whether the 
people who lent the money are alto- 
gether guided by him, and what in- 
duced poor James to borrow so large 
a sum. What could he want it 
for ? " 

From this date Mr. Cudemore was 
constantly proffering assistance. He 
claimed, too, certain authority over the 
Syringa, and neither Mrs. Foxborough 
nor her stage-manager were quite 
clear whether he had such rights or 
not. He said he had a right to exam- 
ine the books weekly on the part of 
the mortgagers, and as Mrs. Fox- 
borough had no copy of the deed, she 
was not able to gainsay him. Mr. 
Cudemore said that clause had been 
specially introduced, as she would 
see when her husband's copy was 
discovered. Mr. Cudemore's dogged 
persistence was remarkable. In vain 



did Mrs. Foxborough decline his offers 
for assistance. She was almost rude 
to the man, but he still would keep 
perpetually calling. Then he tried to 
frighten her about the loss of the 
Syringa, but Mrs. Foxborough told 
him plainly she had done without the 
Syringa before and could do so again. 
She did not want to lose it, but if her 
retaining it was to be a matter of 
favour then she preferred to go. 
Cudemore was evidently very much 
in earnest, or he would never have 
put up with such continuous rebuffs, 
and about what his real motive was 
Mrs. Foxborough had never had any 
doubt from the very beginning. He 
rarely saw Nid upon these occasions, 
and certainly could not claim to have 
met with the slightest encouragement 
from that young lady, but the man was 
crazed about her, and determined to win 
her at all hazards. That she had the 
slightest fancy for him never crossed 
his brain for a moment. On the con- 
trary, I think a wicked determination 
to make her pay dearly for her osten- 
tatious indifference should she ever 
be his wife was much more often in 
his thoughts. 

" Yes, my dainty lady, the time may 
come when you'll wish you had shown 
me more civility, ay, and your stuck- 
up mother too. I shall marry you at 
last, little as you may think it." 

And it did look preposterous, and 
only that Cudemore was quite off his 
head upon the subject, he might have 
seen so himself. Whether she lost the 
Syringa or not, Mrs. Foxborough and 
her daughter would be in no such 
needy circumstances that he might 
look to bend them to his will against 
their own judgment, and he must 
have been blind indeed if he failed to 
see that neither lady favoured his 
pretentions. As for Nid, her feelings 
were more than mere indifference to- 
wards him ; they amounted to actual 
dislike, and in face of her engagement 
to Herbert, no pressure would have 
been likely to make her accept Mr. 
Cudemore. 

" My dearest Herbert," wrote Nid. 
" So many thanks for the good news 
contained in your last letter. It is 
grand to hear that the police have no 
longer any doubt of papa's innocence." 

" Well, upon my word," remarked 



BESSIE SAYS "YES" AT LAST 



133 



Morant, as he laid down the letter for 
a moment, " that is a most ingenious 
twisting of my words. What I meant 
was, ' Seem to have some doubt of 
Mr. Foxborough being the delinquent 
ifter all.' " 

" We get on pretty well, but 
mamma frets dreadfully, and to add 
to her troubles that wretched Mr. 
Cudemore is always worrying her. He 
claims some control over the Syringa, 
though whether he has any real right 
to interfere we don't know, but he's 
always coming here pestering about 
it, and poor mamma has quite sor- 
rows enough without their being 
aggravated by a monster like that. 
How very good it is of Mr. Soames 
to give you such a nice start. Next 
time I see you — ah, when is that to 
be ? — I shall expect to find you have 
taken a treble X degree. You will 
grow awfully rich, brewers always do, 
you know, and that will be nice, 
because you will be able to give me 
all sorts of pretty things, and 1 appre- 
ciate pretty things. I don't want to 
interfere with your work, but do 
snatch a day the first time you've a 
chance, and come up and see us. It 
will do mamma good, and you might 
make out for us whether Mr. Cude- 
more is entitled to assume any con- 
trol of the Syringa. Good-bye, 
Herbert dearest. Mamma's love, and 
believe me, ever your own NlD." 

Mr. Morant's first impression upon 
perusing this epistle was that it 
behoved him to go straight to town 
and kick Cudemore, but upon second 
thoughts he decided to postpone that 
ceremony for the present. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

BESSIE SAYS " YES " AT LAST 

That Philip Soames, after what he 
had stated of his intentions to Dr. 
Ingleby, would be long before putting 
them into practice was not very 
likely, and the very next afternoon 
saw him striding along the causeway 
to Dyke — mightily determined Bessie 
should answer that question in solemn 
ear 



should be no further mystery between 
them. Miss Hyde, to tell the truth 
had passed a sleepless night, a night 
of starts and shivers, hopes and fears, 
such as is the luck of few of us to 
escape experience of; she knew now 
she had staked her very all upon the 
case, for she no longer attempted to 
disguise from herself that she was 
life bankrupt in love should Philip 
resign her. She had talked bravely 
enough about not being a clog round 
his neck, of never being a sociai 
drag upon him, of giving him up foi 
his own good, and she meant every 
word of it ; but still she had never 
realized his giving her up. That 
might come to pass, but it was at an 
undefined distance, not an immediate 
question. She might still hope at all 
events this last stain might be re- 
moved from her family, that the step- 
father she had never seen might be 
absolved from the murder of him 
who had been so good a friend to her, 
that Phil's love might triumph over 
her own resolution. All this was in 
the future ; now she was face to face 
with it. Thirty-six hours, forty-eight 
at the outside, and she would know 
whether all was over between her and 
Phil Soames. If he had not spoken 
before to-morrow night the chances 
were she would never see him again : 
if he had not spoken before the night 
after, she knew if ever she saw him 
again it would be as no lover of hers. 

To say that the announcement of 
Mr. Soames made Bessie start and 
colour would barely describe the girl's 
agitation, but it had to be mastered ; 
and though she had a violent desire 
to run away, she knew that was 
ridiculous, that Phil's early visit was 
an augury of the best, and that it was 
impossible for the best-intentioned 
and most ardent lover to propose if 
the object of his idolatry persistently 
refused him opportunity. So she 
held her ground, and showed no sign 
of shiver in her manner as she 
greeted him. Mrs. Fossdyke wel- 
comed him warmly, as usual, and 
Miss Hyde, albeit her hand shook 
slightly, handed him his tea with very 
fair composure. 

" I am very glad to see you, Philip,' - 
said Mrs. Fossdyke. She had aged 
and become much more subdued in 



134 



AT FAULT 



manner since her husband's death. 
" I hear you have got a friend staying 
with you." 

" Yes, an old college chum, whom 1 
hope you will permit me to introduce 
to you before very long." 

" Ah, it's getting too late for me to 
make fresh acquaintances. It is not 
as it was when John was alive. I'm 
not going to mope or shut myself up, 
but I do feel all the spring's out of 
my life, Philip." 

" You can't expect to get over such 
a shock all at once," he replied. " Is 
it true that you have taken that 
cottage of old Morrison's close to 
us?" 

" It is and it isn't," said Mrs. Foss- 
dyke. " I have not as yet, but I am 
thinking of doing so. It would be 
quite big enough for me and Bessie, 
and I don't wish to stay at Dyke even 
if 1 could." 

" It vvill suit you admirably, and you 
will be close to most of your old 
friends. But I have come out, Mrs. 
Fossdyke, to beg a great favour of 
you." 

Miss Hyde gave a slight start. 

" A favour of me, Philip ! You 
should have come in the days of my 
opulence." 

"There are plenty of favours to be 
craved at your hands yet, as you will 
find in due time, Mrs. Fossdyke. 
What I have to ask is your permis- 
sion to win this lady for my wife if I 
can," and Philip rose as he spoke and 
bent his head to Miss Hyde. 

" It's madness ! " exclaimed Bessie 
faintly. 

" Yes, sweet, and with method in it ; 
but let me only have Mrs. Fossdyke's 
permission, and I'll endeavour to ex- 
plain it." 

" She's as good a girl as ever 
stepped ! " exclaimed the mistress of 
Dyke, as soon as she had recovered 
from her astonishment, delighted to 
find that her pet project was on the 
eve of accomplishment. "You have 
not only my sanction, but, Bessie, my 
dear, if you take my advice you vvill 
treat him kindly." 

" You know all, Philip ; you are 
sure you know all ? " faltered the girl. 

" Dr. Ingleby has told me every- 
thing ; and how I know your secret I 
laugh at it, as I have always pro- 



phesied I should ; and now, Bessie, 
before Mrs. Fossdyke, I ask you 
solemnly, will you be my wife?" 

'" Stop," cried Mrs. Fossdyke, " 1 
don't like this ; more mystery ; there's 
usually misery with mystery, Bessie," 
she continued sadly. "What is this 
secret of yours ? Alas! it has brought 
woe to me already, the bitterest 
quarrel ever I had with poor John 
was about that. Is every one to 
know it but me ? Am I to be ever 
hearing of it, but never hear it ? I 
think, child, I deserve your confidence 
better." 

Bessie half sprang from her chair, 
then dropped back, and with wet 
lashes cast an appealing glance to her 
lover. 

Philip responded at once — 

" Mrs. Fossdyke, spare me Bessie 
for a short time, and on her return 
she shall tell you everything. I trust 
by that to have obtained the right to 
advise her. Come ! you came for a 
stroll with me not long ago, and I 
hope you will send away a happier 
man to-night than you did on that 
occasion." 

The two ladies seemed swept away 
by this decisive, dictatorial young 
man. Mrs. Fossdyke simply pressed 
his hand, and wished him success as 
she bade him good-bye ; while Bessie 
quietly got up and followed him out 
of the room, took her hat and flung 
a woollen shawl round her as she 
passed through the hall, and then 
they stepped out and he led her to 
the now leafless rosary ; there he 
stopped abruptly, no word had as yet 
passed between them, and said almost 
brusquely, " Bessie, how is it to be ?" 

For a few seconds she felt indignant 
at his abruptness, and then she re- 
flected that this was the third time 
this man had asked her to marry him, 
that even the knowledge of her his- 
tory had made no difference whatever 
in his steady devotion ; that she loved 
him dearly, and, lastly, if they once 
get over the first shock women more 
often than not succumb to these blunt 
wooers. 

" Philip," she said at last, " it shall 
be as you will." 

" Then, dearest, you belong to me," 
was his rejoinder, and he clasped her 
in his arms and kissed her. " Now 



BESSIE SAYS u YES" AT LAST 



135 



Bessie, I have nothing in the main 
remember, to learn about your his- 
tory, but I do want to ask you one or 
two questions. How much do you 
know of your mother ? " 

" Next to nothing, as I told Dr. 
Ingleby. I have seen her only occa- 
sionally. Such a fine handsome 
woman, and with a charming voice 
and manner. She kissed me and 
fondled me, but seemed always under 
some sort of restraint, and if, as more 
than once happened, my aunt inter- 
rupted our interview, she immediately 
became formal and cold in her man- 
ner. I am sure she was bound by 
some pact to my aunt to be nothing 
more than a mere nominal mother to 
me. When I implored her to let me 
come and see her she said it was im- 
possible, and I never even saw her 
house, nor do I know where she lives. 
I think my mother and I could have 
loved each other dearly if we had 
ever been given the chance, but we 
saw each other so rarely." 

" And what about your sister — half- 
sister, I mean ? " 

" Sister ! " exclaimed Bessie, " I 
didn't know I had one." 

"Well, she is only your half-sister, 
but Nydia Foxborough is, I am told, 
a very pretty and charming girl." 

" I should like that. I should like 
to have a sister, Philip. Shall I ever 
know her, I wonder ? " said Bessie 
softly. 

" Yes, you will know her, and see a 
great deal of her, little woman, I hope, 
in days shortly to come. You have 
heard I have an old college chum 
staying with me ?" 

" You told us so at tea-time." 

" Well, he, Herbert Morant, is en- 
gaged to marry Nydia Foxborough, 
*nd I intend that Herbert Morant 
shall turn brewer and become a part- 
ner in the firm of Soames & Son. 
And it will be Herbert's own fault if 
it don't all come off ; and when a 
man's really in love I can vouch for 
his becoming very resolute," con- 
cluded Phil, laughing. 

"Very desperate," interposed 
Bessie. " I can't give you back your 
troth now, dearest. I'm too selfish, 
it would break my heart ; but I'm 
afraid, Phil, you are not doing a very 
prudent thing in marrying me ; but to 



take care of my unknown sister 
besides is too good of you, for you 
are indirectly taking care of her, you 
know. You must bring this Mr. 
Morant out and let me know him. I 
shall bo so pleased to talk to him 
about Nydia." 

"Yes," laughed Phil, "and, great 
heavens, won't ho jump at the oppor- 
tunity ! I've a good deal of difficulty 
in suppressing a tendency to talk to 
him about you, but I doubt whether I 
should be allowed if I tried, Herbert 
has so much to say about your sister. 
She's a sweetly pretty girl, judging 
from her photograph, but not in the 
least like you, though I hear she is a 
miniature edition of her mother." 

" Mamma is tall," observed Bessie. 

" And Nid, as Herbert calls her, 
petite. She is endowed with every 
charm and virtue under the sun. 1 
need scarcely say that the testimony 
is biassed, and if a man is not biassed 
in favour of his betrothed he's not in 
love with her. If she be not all grace 
and perfection in his eyes, well ! " 

" Well, what ? " asked Bessie ro- 
guishly. 

" His fetters are not snapped to," 
rejoined Soames, laughing. " Mine, 
.darling, are well rivetted ; and, faith, 
when you talk to Herbert Morant 1 
think you'll admit his manacles are 
satisfactorily soldered on." 

" Ah, well, I shall be charmed to 
listen to him for a long afternoon. I 
have always so longed for a sister, 
and you say she is nice." 

" No, pardon me, I never said so. 
Herbert does ; he knows her and I 
don't. All I say is, if the sun don't 
lie, she should be a very pretty girl, 
but I've only seen her photograph." 

" When am I to see her ? " asked 
Bessie. 

" Ah ! That I can't say. It de- 
pends a little upon this miserable 
murder. I fancy the police have rather 
changed their views about it of late, 
but they don't take us into their con- 
fidence. Miss Foxborough down here 
just at present would be an impossi- 
bility, you know." 

"Yes, and I fervently trust now 
that Mr. Foxborough will be acquitted 
of the crime. It would be a wall 
between Nydia and myself were it 
otherwise." 



136 



AT FAULT 



" For the present, perhaps, yes, but 
not of necessity in the future. In the 
meanwhile we must not speculate on 
disagreeable subjects." 

" But, Philip," said Bessie in a low 
tone, as they continued to pace up 
and down, "am I to tell Mrs. Foss- 
dyke all my story ? Would it be 
best?" 

"Yes; tell her everything, prefacing 
it with the intimation that you are 
pledged to be my wife." 

" It shall be as my lord wills," re- 
joined Bessie ; "but I own I think it 
will pain Mrs. Fossdyke." 

Phil Soames gave a low laugh ere 
he replied — 

" To think, dearest, a man's wit for 
once in a case of this sort should 
eclipse a woman's. Mrs. Fossdyke 
may be a little startled at first, but in 
telling your story you will of course 
make her clearly understand you never 
even saw your stepfather. Well, you 
will satisfy no little curiosity she feels 
about your previous life, and the an- 
nouncement that we are engaged will, 
I am sure, please her. You know, 
Bessie, as well as I do, that though 
she has never been so injudicious as 
to attempt match-making between us, 
she has in many little ways never at- 
tempted to conceal that she would be 
pleased if we did happen to take a 
fancy to one another." 

" Philip," cried the girl, as the blood 
rushed to her temples, " you have no 
right to talk like that. It seems " 

" Stop," interrupted Soames, " it 
seems as if you were about to observe 
that one of the twain was a long 
while taking that fancy. She can't 
say it was altogether my fault, for, my 
darling, if ever a man won a bride by 
thorough belief in her, devoted love 
for her, and persistent refusal not to 
take ' no ' for an answer, I think I 
did. I'll hear no word against Mrs. 
Fossdyke." 

" I wasn't going to say anything 
against her. What I meant was this 
" cried Bessie. 

" Which was not in the least the 
case," replied Phil. " You were going 
to insinuate that, like Benedick, I was 
trapped into falling in love with you. 
Not a bit of it ; before I'd known you 
six weeks I'd vowed to marry you, and 
on my word, Bessie, there was a time 



when I thought I was like to be for- 
sworn." 

" For your own sake, my love," she 
replied softly. " If it had not been 
for that, Phil, I am afraid I should 
have surrendered at the first assault, 
and that the telegraph board on the 
cricket- field would only have recorded 
the half of your triumphs." 

Soames pressed her arm in reply, 
and said, " Walk with me to the gate, 
Bessie, for it is time I got home to 
entertain your brother-in-law that is 
to be, after all these family matters 
are arranged." 

"And you are sure I had better tell 
Mrs. Fossdyke everything?" asked 
the girl, as they strolled down the 
drive. 

" Quite ; because, Bessie, she might 
learn the story in some shape at any 
time now. We have thought it best 
to let the police know everything, and 
though they promise not to make un- 
necessary parade of the knowledge we 
have afforded them, it is quite possible 
that they may have no help for it." 

" Were you right to tell them so 
much ?" 

" Yes, Bessie, I think so. One has 
no right to keep back evidence that 
seems to bear upon a great crime, or 
for the matter of that a little one. In 
our case all I can say is the officer in 
charge of the case seems to think we 
have done Foxborough good service. 
I don't in the least understand how, 
nor did he condescend to explain, but, 
my darling, straightforward policy 
generally seems to me to be most 
profitable in this world in the long 
run. Now, pet, give me a kiss, and 
then scamper home, and remember 
you've sent a real happy man on his 
road home to-night." So saying, Phil 
clasped the girl in his arms, and 
claimed lawful tribute from her freely- 
yielded lips. 

" Good-night ! and away with you, ' 
he said, as he released her. " Don't 
be afraid, but that, though she may 
weep a bit after your story, Mrs. 
Fossdyke will be very pleased with 
it on the whole. Once more, good- 
night ! " 

Bessie sped home with a light heart. 
Confession to Mrs. Fossdyke might 
be awkward, but what did it matter ! 
Philip loved her. She was Philip's 



MR. CU DEMO RE GETS UNCOMFORTABLE 



J 37 



now, spite of everything. He knew 
all about her, and clasped her to his 
breast, and called her his plighted 
wife, and laughed at the idea of her 
poor biography making any kind of 
difference in his feelings. Ah ! yes, 
as Philip's fiancde and authorized by 
him to tell it, what recked she if the 
world knew her whole story ? Per- 
sonally she knew she was blameless. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

MR. CUDEMORE GETS UNCOMFORT- 
ABLE 

That men have infatuations about 
women past comprehension is an 
axiom as indisputable in life as that a 
line is the shortest distance between 
two points in mathematics. "What 
does he see in her?" demand his 
friends angrily and with justice ; she 
may be vulgar, and even of dubious 
beauty, but no matter, she has fasci- 
nated that man, it may be for days 
or it may be for ever, but though of 
mature age he will be blind as a 
newly-born puppy to her demerits. 
What does he see in her ? Good 
Lord, he could not answer that ques- 
tion in the least. He would tell you 
that she was lovely, deny that she was 
vulgar, and assert upon oath that her 
English was faultless. Useless to 
reason with these infatuated ones. 
Safer far to emulate that astute philo- 
sopher, who, upon being condoled 
with about his brother's mesalliance, 
quietly retorted : " What is there to 
howl about ? Charlie would never 
have been happy with a lady." 

Mr. Cudemore was quite off his 
balance about Nid Foxborough. He 
had fair grounds for his infatuation. 
The girl was very pretty, and had 
been thoroughly educated. There 
were none of the vulgarisms men- 
tioned above in her, but she had never 
given him the slightest encourage- 
ment, nor had he indeed ever been 
afforded much opportunity of pushing 
his suit ; but for all that Mr. Cude- 
more was most resolute in his deter- 
mination to marry her. He was work- 
ing hard to get the Syringa mainly 



into his own hands, and had already, 
as he knew, assumed a control there 
to which he was by no means entitled. 
What distressed him at present was 
not Nid's indifference to his suit — 
that he was prepared for ; but her 
mother's indifference to the loss of the 
management of the Syringa. 

Mr. Cudemore had already aban- 
doned all hope of carrying his point 
as a mere wooer, but he did think 
pressure about the Syringa might do 
wonders for him. To his dismay Mrs. 
Foxborough seemed to care little 
whether she stayed or left. He had 
trusted much upon this leverage in 
the game he conceived James Fox- 
borough's death had opened out to 
him. Another thing which had gone 
awry with the money-lender was this. 
He was, of course, aware that Herbert 
Morant was his successful rival. He 
had held some bills of Morant's, and 
Mr. Cudemore's experience of young 
men told him that the first bill, like 
the first woodcock, was but the pre- 
cursor of the flight. He had looked 
forward at no little distance of time 
to having the young man most 
thoroughly under his thumb, but to 
his great astonishment Herbert Mo- 
rant had promptly taken up his bills 
as soon as they became due, and 
shown no wish to contract fresh obli- 
gations ; consequent indeed on his 
love for Nid, and desire to set to 
work to make a home for her ; but 
Mr. Cudemore did not know all this, 
or I am afraid that maledictions 
would have fallen from beneath his 
well -waxed moustache, thick and 
thorough. 

He could not be said to be having 
a rosy time of it altogether, this jackal 
that preyed on the necessities of his 
brethren. Your professional affairs 
may run favourably enough, but most 
men have some aim utterly outside 
that, and the mark that particularly 
attracted Mr. Cudemore's attention at 
this moment seemed considerably be- 
yond his attainment. Still he was of 
that pertinacious temperament that 
sometimes achieves the fulfilment of 
its desires by its dogged perseverance. 

One thing, quietly as he had passed 
it by, had struck Mr. Cudemore 
during his interview with Mrs. Fox- 
borough — to wit, her statement that 



'38 



AT FAULT 



the police no longer thought her 
husband guilty of the Bunbury mur- 
der. It was considerably to his in- 
terest, he thought, that Foxborough 
should be held guilty of that crime, 
and he resolved to call upon Mr. 
Sturton, and endeavour to ascertain 
I'rom him what Scotland Yard had 
thought of the information he had 
brought them. 

The great Bond Street maestro was 
at home, or, to speak more correctly, 
at his place of business. As for home, 
he resided in a charming house, stand- 
ing in excessively pretty grounds out 
in West Kensington, where were 
plenty of servants, saddle and car- 
riage horses, a French cook, a Scotch 
gardener and conservatories ; his sons 
were at the universities, and though 
far more Conservative in their profes- 
sions than their father, with much 
less real reverence for a lord. As 
Coleridge had a contemptuous belief 
in ghosts such as he might hold in 
cabbages, because he had seen so 
many of them, so had these young 
men discovered that hereditary rank 
was simply the result of successful 
spoliation and corruption in the days 
gone by, and its descendants by no 
means gifted above the sons of men. 
Mr. Sturton was at his place of busi- 
ness, and Mr. Cudemore was at once 
ushered into the sartorial potentate's 
private sanctum — a simply-furnished 
room at the back of the shop, where 
Mr. Sturton, seated at his writing- 
table, was quietly engaged in answer- 
ing the heavy batch of letters which 
each morning brought him. 

" Ah ! Cudemore," he saioi in his 
usual languid manner ; " pray sit 
down ; excuse me for two minutes 
while 1 just finish this, and then I 
shall be ready to talk to you." 

A few minutes, and then Sturton 
threw down his pen, and pulling his 
chair round, said quietly — 

"Now, then, what is it?" 

He and Mr. Cudemore were not 
wont to indulge in ceremonious calling 
upon each other. 

"What did they say to you at Scot- 
land Yard the other day ? " inquired 
the money-lender without further 
preamble. 

" You needn't feel the least uncom- 
fortable about my going there any- 



way, for your name has never been 
mentioned, while mine they promised 
to keep dark unless absolutely com- 
pelled to bring it forward, which they 
did not in the least anticipate. I saw 
Sergeant Usher, the detective officer 
in charge of the case, and he said my 
information might turn out of great 
value to them, but would probably 
never lead to their requiring any 
evidence from me, and that certainly 
at present they would infinitely prefer 
my keeping my mouth closed on the 
subject." 

" I am told the police begin to 
think that Foxborough did not com- 
mit the crime. Is that true? What 
does Sergeant Usher think about 
it ? " 

" I am sure I don't know," replied 
Mr. Sturton; "and from what I saw 
of Sergeant Usher, I should say he's 
very unlikely to let any mortal soul 
know his opinion on the subject till 
he's got some one on his trial for the 
murder. I should think he would talk 
affably and apparently openly with 
you for a week, and at the end of it 
you wouldn't have discovered what he 
thought about anything. I see a good 
bit of human nature, you know ; you 
can't help measuring men's minds a 
little while you are measuring their 
bodies, that is, if you are an artist. 
There are customers who never know 
exactly what they want, and whom 
you may persuade to do anything. 
Others who equally don't know what 
they want, but suspect you if you 
attempt to assist the wobbling ideas 
that do duty with therri for a mind ; 
there's the customer you can't please, 
do what you will, angular in body as 
in opinion ; there's the man who 
hates trying on, hates ordering clothes 
at all, and pays ready money ; there's 
the man who delights in both the first, 
but abhors the latter part of the 
ceremony. Hasn't Carlyle written a 
book about it ? and, good Lord ! if 
he had only had me to prompt him ! 
Ours is one of the great arts, and the 
day will soon come when it will be 
acknowledged as such. You've R.A.'s, 
and I don't see why there shouldn't be 
R.T 's ; and as the age gets more 
advanced, and the general fusion of 
things begins, there's no doubt, there's 
no doubt whatever " and here the 



.1/7?. < HUEMORE GETS UNLOM PORTABLE 



'30 



great democratic tailor stopped 
abruptly, his tongue having a little 
overt un his defined opinions upon the 
coming upheaval ; a thing which 
happens notably to many of our 
legislators, and accounts for the con- 
sequent abrupt termination of some of 
the bursts of eloquence with which 
they are wont to electrify their con- 
stituents. 

Mr. Cudemore was of a narrow- 
minded but practical turn of mind. 
He stared with undisguised astonish- 
ment while his friend delivered him- 
self of the above rhapsody, but would, 
had his thoughts been put into 
English, have expressed himself 
somehow in this wise : — 

"All men have their faults, I know. 
It's the weak point in their organiza- 
tion, which, carried to excess, men 
call madness. Only I know Sturton 
to be a thorough business, practical 
man, I should wonder why his friends 
didn't shut him up, that is to say, if he 
ever lets out in this way to them. I ! 
hum, if I could, should charge him 
another ten per cent, for it." 

"Then this Sergeant Usher didn't 
really tell you he considered Foxbor- 
ough had nothing to do with the 
crime?" remarked Mr. Cudemore at 
length. 

'' Certainly not — what put that into 
your head ? " 

" The papers, I believe," rejoined 
the money-lender carelessly; "and 
then I misunderstood you about your 
interview at Scotland Yard ?" 

" I told you clearly," rejoined 
Sturton, " that Usher, like a colourless 
photograph, expressed nothing. Vol- 
uble, very, ori. occasions ; that is, 
it struck me, if I didn't talk ; but 
mute as a mouse when I'd anything 
to say. I know nothing about the 
opinion of Scotland Yard whatever." 

"Ah ! well, I felt a little curious to 
know what they thought oi your 
confession," rejoined Mr. Cudemore, 
rising, "and also whether the making 
<>f it had brought you peace of 
mind.'' 

" The sooner you understand I 
mean invariably to take my own way 
the better," rejoined Sturton sharply, 
and with a quickness that the money- 
lender had never given him credit for 
" It is very easy to tr-rnsfer such busi- 



ness as I have with you to another of 
the fraternity." 

" And suppose I chose to bruit 
abroad our former relations after- 
wards," rejoined Cudemore sullenly. 

" I should deliberately and as 
assuredly ruin you. Fool that you 
are ! Can't you see that small cap- 
italists like you are at the mercy of 
the bigger men who employ them," 
retorted Mr. Sturton calmly. "All 
the leading men in my profession are 
reported to lend money to their 
customers whether they do or not. 
You can't do me much harm, but, my 
dear Cudemore, I shall assuredly 
break you. I pull strings that your 
limited mind has no conception of." 

" I don't want to quarrel," replied 
the money-lender. " Unless with an 
object it's always a mistake, but when 
you run counter to my views 1 like to 
know the why of it. We'll change 
the subject. How about young 
Morant ? Is he still on your books ? 
he has taken up all his papers ?" 

" No, that's the man who stands in 
your way with Miss Foxborough, isn't 
he ? He has squared up and left us, 
and when they do that of their own 
accord it usually means that they 
have taken to the business of life in 
some fashion. Flying kites and West- 
end tailors don't quite accord with 
such utilitarian views." 

The conversation was again verging 
a little too deep for the money-lender, 
and it may be doubted whether Mr. 
Sturton really comprehended what he 
meant by his last observation. A 
tendency to inflated language is one 
of the characteristics of all platform 
oratory of the present day. Mr. Cude- 
more thought there was no more to 
be said, and no more to be learned, 
so he gravely and impressively wished 
the Bond Street magnate good- 
bye. Somewhat staggered, Mr. Cude- 
more got out of the house, having 
found this man of so much tougher 
calibre than he had deemed him, so 
utterly unmalleable and determinate 
about having his own way. Still he did 
recognise Sturton's grim formula that 
when the brazen pots and the earthen 
quarrel it is bad for the latter, and 
felt that to succumb with grace to his 
principal's dictum was all that was 
left to him. He had been slow to 



140 



AT FAULT 



perceive this, but was quite awake 
now to the fact that this languid man 
had a most peremptory will of his 
own, and was hardly to be turned 
from it. 

Musing over this, to him by no 
means pleasing discovery, he arrived 
at his house in Spring Gardens, and 
proceeded, without going into his 
office, to ascend the stairs to his own 
private apartments. As he turned 
the angle of the staircase, he caught 
sight of his junior clerk coming, as it 
appeared to him, out of his, Cude- 
more's, bedroom. 

" What the deuce are you doing up 
here ? " inquired the money-lender 
angrily as the pair met. 

" I came up to see if you were in, 
sir. There's a gent of the name of 
Smithson wanting to see you terrible 
bad." 

" Where's his card ? " inquired Mr. 
Cudemore. 

" He hadn't got one," rejoined Tim, 
for such was the soubriquet by which 
the junior clerk was known in the 
establishment ; doubtful even whether 
his master knew his legitimate 
patronymic. 

" Show him up then at once," re- 
joined Cudemore. 

" He's left, sir ; said he would call 
again in an hour, when he heard you 
were out." 

" How the devil did he hear I was 
out, you young cheat-the-gallows, 
when you have just made the dis- 
covery ? " 

" I told him I thought you were," 
replied Tim flippantly, "and he 
wouldn't wait till I ran up to see " 

" Look here, my young friend, it 
strikes me you're lying on a pretty 
extensive scale. You knew I was out 
to begin with." 

" Certainly, sir, but I was not quite 
sure you had not come in." 

" Clients who come to see me 
generally leave or produce cards," 
said the money-lender. 

" Well, this one wouldn't," rejoined 
Tim doggedly. 

" And what business, sir, had you 
to suppose you would find me in my 
bedroom ? " 

" I didn't. I went to look for you 
in your sitting-room, and not finding 
you there ran upstairs on the off- 



chance, the door being open I 
peeped in, you were not there, and I 
thought it best to shut it behind 
me." 

" I could have taken my oath, 
almost, you were coming out of the 
room when I caught sight of you." 

" Well, it may be I'd had my neck 
and perhaps a foot over the threshold. 
I'm very sorry if I've done wrong, 
Mr. Cudemore, but this gentleman 
was so urgent, and I really didn't 
know whether you were in or out." 

"That'll do," replied the money- 
lender curtly, " but remember, if ever 
I find you above the first floor again, 
you go, and with no recommendation 
for further employment from me." 

Tim said nothing in return, but 
disappeared promptly to his legitimate 
sphere. 

" Now what was that cursed young 
liar prowling about my bedroom for?" 
mused Mr. Cudemore as he entered 
his sitting-room and lit a cigar. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

MORANT MEETS MISS HYDE 

When Phil went over to Dyke next 
day he was soon warmly greeted by 
Mrs. Fossdyke. 

" Sincere congratulations," she 
murmured. "You can't think how 
happy you have made me ; that you 
two should come together has been 
the wish of my heart this year past." 

"Ah ! I suppose Bessie has told 
you all," said Phil emphatically. 

" All," replied Mrs. Fossdyke, " and 
I know what a wretch I was to tease 
her about the past, but it was not 
altogether my fault, although at my 
age I've no business to attempt to 
shift the blame to other people's 
shoulders." 

" Nobody ever doubted who the 
real culprit was, Mrs. Fossdyke ; but 
where is Bessie ? " 

" She will be down in a few minutes, 
but I asked just to have you to myself 
for a little. I've known you so long, 
Phil, and you've always been such a 
favourite of mine, that I wanted to 
make my congratulations in earnest. 



MO RANT MEETS MISS HYDE 



141 



She will make you a good wife, even 
though there be a stain in her pedi- 
gree. '' 

" I am very glad to hear you say 
that, Mrs. Fossdyke, for even assum- 
ing her step-father is the guilty mon- 
ster which he is alleged to be, and 
which every fresh discovery seems to 
make more doubtful, it would be too 
cruel to visit his crimes on the head 
of this girl who never even saw 
him." 

" I quite agree with you. I love 
her very dearly, and though, of course, 
I can't repress a little shiver as yet 
when I reflect upon her connection 
with that — that man," faltered Mrs. 
Fossdyke, "still, Philip, I hope you 
don't think I could be unjust to 
Bessie." 

" You were so not very long back," 
thought Philip, but he gave no utter- 
ance to the reflection and merely bent 
his handsome head. 

" And now," continued Mrs. Foss- 
dyke, " I want to see the other one, 
this Mr. Morant who is engaged to 
Bessie's unknown sister." 

" Certainly ; I was going to ask 
permission to bring him out here, as I 
want him to know Bessie ; but if I 
hive leave to introduce him to you 
also, I shall be only too delighted." 

" Yes ; I want to know him. Is he 
nice ? Is he good-looking ? " 

"Good-looking? Well, we men 
never can quite tell what your sex 
will call so, or I'd say decidedly not ; 
but he is a gentleman, and a real 
good fellow, Mrs. Fossdyke. He's 
been an idler so far, but he's got a 
wife to work for now, and, please 
God, I'll make a man of him here. 
I'm bound to say that, so far, he faces 
his work like a bull-dog." 

"With that incentive to work and 
you as his tutor, Phil, I think he'll 
do," said Mrs. Fossdyke, laughing 
softly. " But bring him out to see 
me, and I'll judge of his appearance 
for myself." 

" Certainly ! " And as he spoke 
Miss Hyde entered the room, and 
greeted her fiancd with a bright smile, 
to which he responded by warmly 
embracing her. 

" Bessie, I've just obtained Mrs. 
Fossdyke's permission ; nay, I may 
say more, her command, to bring out 



your future brother-in-law for your 
personal inspection." 

"You know I am as anxious to hear 
about my sister and make his ac- 
quaintance as Mrs. Fossdyke." 

" Yes, and I'll ensure your hearing 
about your sister," returned Philip, 
laughing ; " no intimate friend of 
Herbert's will miss that at present, I 
fancy." 

" He will find me an interested 
listener, at all events. When will you 
bring him ?" 

" To-morrow, if that will suit you, 
Mrs. Fossdyke. Lord, what friends 
you and he wili be, Bessie ! A woman 
who will be a sympathetic recipient of 
a lover's outpourings about the object 
wins his devotion. He will at once 
pronounce her a very paragon." 

"And pray, Philip, who is the con- 
fidant of your ' outpourings ' ? " said 
Miss Hyde, laughing. " I presume 
from what you say such a confidant is 
a necessity?" 

"Oh, yes, my dear," rejoined Philip 
gaily, " there are times when I feel it 
a necessity to dilate on your attrac- 
tions, and then I'll own at first it 
came hard. Herbert has no idea of 
fair play. He expects me to listen for 
hours to prose poems about your 
sister, but I regret to state he mani- 
fests as yet but a cursory interest in 
hearing about you. Of course I also 
had to find somebody to rave to ; but 
I hadn't far to seek. I knew an old 
friend who says, Bessie, if he could 
only take off twenty years you would 
have had to decide whether he or I 
was the best man, and he'll always 
listen while I chant your praises." 

"Ah ! that's dear old Dr. Ingleby," 
said the girl as she slipped her arm 
through her lover's. " I hardly dare 
think yet, Phil, that we are going to 
be married, but if ever we are he will 
have had as much to say to it as the 
clergyman." 

" ' Ever we are,' child ? What non- 
sense you are talking. You know, 
dear Mrs. Fossdyke, that out of 
respect to your poor husband's 
memory neither of us would wish it at 
present, but after a due interval I 
know we shall have your best wishes 
and permission." 

" My very best wishes and hearty 
congratulations," replied the widow : 



142 



AT FAULT 



" now run away, the pair of you. I 
know you must have a lot to say to 
each other, unless things have 
changed a deal from the days when I 
was young." 

" Certainly," replied Phil ; " I have 
got to teach Bessie woman's duties as 
a wife." 

"Oh, Phil, Phil," said Mrs. Foss- 
dyke, laughing. " I know you both 
better. Only make her love you, and 
she'll want no teaching on that point ; 
but till you slip the ring on her finger 
it's woman's prerogative that her 
word should be law ; and, Bessie, my 
dear, don't be false to your sex and 
forego the privilege." 

" Come along, Bessie, come for a 
stroll ; and as you are strong, be 
merciful. I bow meekly to Mrs. 
Fossdyke's decision, but don't com- 
mand more chariots than a mere 
maltster can afford you." 

" Don't chaff your wife that is to be, 
Phil," said Bessie with a low, rippling 
laugh. " You know very well till she 
came to Dyke cabs and omnibuses 
constituted her ideas of chariots. No, 
dearest, I can promise two things — to 
love you truly and develop no lavish 
ideas on the subject of expenditure." 

"A wise woman in her generation 
is Mrs. Fossdyke," replied Phil, " and 
if you'll only do the first I quite agree 
with her. I need trouble about no- 
thing else." 

A slight pressure of his arm 
acknowledged the speech, and then 
Bessie said, " Mind, Mr. Morant 
brings out Nydia's photograph to- 
morrow. I am so anxious and curi- 
ous to see it." 

" Of course," replied Philip ; " but 
here we are again at the gate. Still, 
Bessie, saying good-bye to you now is 
not what it was." 

" I trust not," she rejoined softly. 
" You will understand how different it 
seems to me when I say ' Kiss me, 
Phil,' and, mind, I must see you to- 
morrow." 

There was no mutiny on Philip 
Soames's part against his lady-love's 
first behest, and as he swung into 
Baumborough at a four-mile-an-hour 
gait, there was perhaps no happier 
young fellow in the United Kingdom. 
Dashing into his own sanctum, he 
found Herbert Morant staring 



solemnly at the glowing coals. Lift- 
ing his head, that gentleman glanced 
at him for a moment and then ex- 
claimed — 

" No, don't please ; I can't stand it. 
There's wedding-bells in every line of 
your face. All very well for you, who 
see marriage within measurable dis- 
tance, but for one to whom it seems a 
mere possibility of the future — Ah ! " 
sighed Herbert in conclusion. 

" Don't be a fool, and don't stare 
into the fire till oppressed with the 
doldrums," rejoined Soames sharply. 
" Your marriage-bells are within very 
reasonable reach, if you only stick to 
the collar as you have done since you 
came here." 

" You really think I shall make a 
brewer ? " asked Herbert. 

" There's no doubt whatever about 
it, and marry Nydia, and settle down 
at Baumborough, and become a 
vestry man, a town councillor, and 
half a dozen other things of which you 
at present comprehend nothing. In 
the meantime I'm pledged to-morrow 
to take you out to Dyke to introduce 
you to Mrs. Fossdyke and Nydia's 
half-sister." 

"You are awfully kind, Phil, but 
won't it — won't it be just a little awk- 
ward ? " 

" Not at all ; that is all smoothed 
away. Both ladies are dying to see 
you. Bessie wants to hear all about 
her unknown sister, and if you give 
her about a tenth of the confidence 
you bestow upon me there won't be 
much left for her to learn." 

" Don't talk bosh, Phil ; Pve never 
said much to you about her." 

" Good Lord ! " exclaimed Soames, 
" am I like this ? Are we fonder when 

we babble of our love ? My dear 

Herbert, you discourse of little else." 

" Come, look here, old fellow," ex- 
claimed Herbert, suddenly rising and 
lighting a cigar. " I may chip in 
about Nid when I get the chance, but 
you are usually haranguing to such an 
extent about the angelic qualities of 
Miss Hyde I never get a fair oppor- 
tunity to tell you about Nid." 

"Well, my boy," rejoined Phil, 
laughing, " you're not going to get it 
now. That cigar should about settle 
your appetite for dinner. Pm off to 
dress." 



MO RANT MEETS MISS HYDE 



M3 



" Good heavens ! it's not dressing 
time, is it ? " said Morant, turning 
abruptly to the clock on the mantel- 
piece. " By Jove, you are right," and 
as he spoke he hurled his fresh-lit 
cigar into the fireplace. " Off we go, 
old man, white tie and soap and water 
time." 

That he unduly discoursed about 
Miss Foxborough was a fact that Mr. 
Morant could not possibly be con- 
vinced of. To use a horribly com- 
monplace simile, he was in the position 
of a man who snores ; unconscious of 
misdemeanour, he is not to be per- 
suaded that he has ever been guilty of 
it. But he looked forward immensely 
to being introduced to Bessie ; al- 
though unaware that he gave rein to 
it, he did know that to talk about Nid 
to any one afforded him considerable 
pleasure, and, of course, from Phil's 
account was quite certain that Bessie 
was prepared to give ear to all he 
might say about her newly-found 
sister. 

Herbert Morant was duly paraded 
at Dyke next day, and cordially re- 
ceived by both ladies. 

" No, Philip," said Mrs. Fossdyke, 
in an undertone, as Bessie carried the 
new-comer off into the window to talk 
to; "there can be no mistake about 
it, your friend is not a good-looking 
man. No woman will ever think so." 

" I never thought so myself," re- 
joined Soames ; " but what has that 
to say to it ? He is a real good fellow, 
and I don't think personal attractions, 
after all, have so very much weight in 
love affairs. There are so many of 
us, both sides, would never get mar- 
ried if we entirely depended on that. I 
know in old days how I have fought 
for a dance with the belle of the ball, 
won it at last, and never pleaded for 
another. I suppose women are some- 
thing like us ; prone to be smitten in 
the first place by an attractive ex- 
terior ; but an angel who can only 
valse and simper speedily disenchants 
most men who have anything in them, 
and a plainer young lady, who can not 
only dance but talk a bit, gives her 
handsome rivals the go-by in the long 
run." 

" You've won a wife, Philip, who 
can do both," replied Mrs. Fossdyke 
quietly. 



" I know it," he said, smiling ; "but 
I am exceptionally gifted amongst the 
sons of men." 

" I most sincerely trust and believe 
you are. Nothing can bring my poor, 
dear husband back to me, and for 
Bessie's sake and yours I wish the 
whole of this investigation could be 
swamped. I feel no desire for venge- 
ance, and I should like the whole 
tragedy to be forgotten by the public." 

" Spoken like your own true- 
hearted self," rejoined Soames ; and 
then he thought how marvellously her 
great grief had transformed Mrs. 
Fossdyke. The rather petulant, talk- 
ative woman he had originally known 
was transformed into a patient, con- 
siderate lady, taking a kindly interest 
in all those surrounding her. 

" I am afraid, dear Mrs. Fossdyke, 
the authorities, in the interests of jus- 
tice, will not quite allow that. That 
the police are quite at fault this 
minute I firmly believe. You know, 
and always shall, as much as I can 
learn. What they may think exactly 
I can't say, but so far I fancy they 
really are utterly nonplussed." 

" And it would be best they were 
left so, for many reasons," replied 
Mrs. Fossdyke, "but this is beyond 
either your control or mine ; but, 
Philip, should there be anything to 
know you will let me hear it, will you 
not ? " 

" I promise faithfully. Do you 
think I might venture to interrupt 
that couple in the window?" 

" Certainly," rejoined the widow, 
smiling. " You've allowed him to do 
a very fair amount of raving about 
Miss Foxborough ; you are quite en- 
titled to do a bit of raving on your 
own account now." 

Phil Soames moved across to the 
window, and said, — 

" Well, Bessie, do you begin to 
know your sister?" 

" Yes, and have in some sense seen 
her. No thanks to you though, sir, 
for it seems you quite forgot my in- 
structions." 

" Oh dear, yes, about bringing her 
photograph. I plead guilty, and im- 
plore pardon ; but I see Herbert hap- 
pily brought it." 

" Yes," replied Morant, " I thought 
Miss Hyde " 



144 



AT FAULT 



" Bessie," interrupted the girl laugh- 
ing. "How much oftener am I to 
tell you that? I'm not going to be 
called Miss Hyde by my brother-in- 
law. We are fast becoming great 
friends, Phil. I know he's not good 
enough for Nid, though I've never 
seen her ; and he owns it." 

" Of course I am not ; but then, 
Miss Bessie, I know nobody ever will 
be, so it is not worth her while to wait 
till he comes by, but she'll never find 
any one to love her more dearly." 

" You love her better than Philip 
loves me," interposed Miss Hyde, not 
a little amused. 

" Oh ! that's a puzzler," rejoined 
Herbert ; " there are weighing ma- 
chines — things to calculate how hard 
you can blow, etc., but science as yet 
hasn't got as far as weighing your 
affections. If it had, Bessie, you 
would see that though Phil would 
bring the scale down, I should break 
the machine." 

" What a lucky girl my sister is to 
be loved like that ! Immeasurable 
adoration," continued Miss Hyde de- 
murely ; " we can demand no more." 

" Now she's chaffing," exclaimed 
Morant, rising. " Come, Phil, we had 
better go." 

" I shall keep this photograph, Her- 
bert, as a pledge of your speedy re- 
turn, though such a high-pressure 
adorer as yourself I've no doubt has 
at least a dozen." 

"Yes, I can leave you that. I do 
happen to have another — and now 
good-bye." 

Bessie shook her head at him laugh- 
ingly, as she replied, — 

" You'll never see this again. An- 
other ! I suppose he's an album full, 
Philip. Isn't it so ? " 

" I think he's another or two," re- 
joined Soames, smiling. " Good-bye, 
dearest. I'm awful glad you two have 
made acquaintance." 

"Good-bye, Herbert," said Bessie. 
" Like the dutiful helpmate I've pro- 
mised to be, I reiterate my lord and 
master's observation." 

" What do you think of her?" ob- 
served Philip curtly, as the young 
men strode home to Baumborough. 

" Bar Nid ! she's just the nicest 
girl I ever met," rejoined Morant. 

"Ah ! I wanted you two to like each 



other," rejoined Soames, "and I'm 
pleased you do. Now, old man, I'll 
tell you what we'll do. After dinner 
we'll go over and smoke a cigar with 
the doctor. He won't say much to 
you, but he takes as much interest in 
our love affairs as we do." 

" Nonsense ! What an old trump ! 
Smoke with him, of course we will, 
Phil. A delightful termination to a 
delightful day." 



CHAPTER XXX 
THE RIDDLE ABOUT SOLVED 

Sergeant Usher was getting quite 
angry with himself on account of his 
inability to put his puzzle together. 
He had so great an insight to the 
great Bunbury mystery that it made 
him quite irritable he could not quite 
explain it. A good deal that the pub- 
lic could not comprehend was quite 
plain to him ; but who was the con- 
federate ? where was the writer of that 
note ? It was not Foxborough's writ- 
ing, nor was it even an attempt to 
simulate his hand ; he had ascertained 
that from people whose testimony on 
the point was thoroughly reliable, yet 
it must be in handwriting perfectly 
familiar to the dead man, or he would 
never have so promptly attended to 
its behests. It had become quite clear 
to Mr. Usher that, much as he desired 
to keep that note in the background, 
it was no longer possible ! as long as 
that note reposed in the security of 
Mr. Usher's pocket-book it was quite 
evident there could be no opportunity 
for any one to recognise the writer. 
The sergeant, who was an enthusiast 
in his profession, and had a whimsical 
fancy, was for producing an important 
bit of testimony at the last moment ; 
hence his desire to keep his treasure- 
trove of the Hopbine a secret. But it 
was clear to him now the enigma 
could not be solved otherwise than by 
the recognition of that handwriting. 
Nowhere, he thought, was that more 
likely to be achieved than by some of 
John Fossdyke's old friends at Baum- 
borough, notably by Dr. Ingleby, and 
hither Mr. Usher determined to be- 



THE RIDDLE ABOUT SOLVED 



Mo 



take himself without loss of time ; 
quite possible even Mr. Totterdell 
might be the man he wanted. 

" And though," mused the sergeant, 
" he's a blethering old creature to get 
information out of, still I mustn't 
throw away a chance simply because 
a witness is a weariful, wandering old 
nuisance." 

As he whirled down by the after- 
noon train Mr. Usher pondered a 
good deal upon where he should com- 
mence this fresh inquisition. He 
knew the Baumborough world by 
heart by this time. The local gossip 
had revealed to him a good deal of 
the inns and outs, the likes and dis- 
likes of social life at Baumborough, 
and he finally thought that perhaps 
he had better begin with Mr. Totter- 
dell. 

" Mrs. Fossdyke would be likely to 
tell her garrulous godfather as much 
as she knew of her husband's affairs 
before the quarrel," mused Mr. Usher, 
" and, hang it, a woman always knows 
a deal more than her husband gives 
her credit for. It's quite likely he 
might tumble to this handwriting at 
once. I'll begin with him, and try 
Dr. Ingleby afterwards, if it don't 
come off.'' 

That Mr. Totterdell would be at 
home to Sergeant Usher there was 
very little doubt. The old gentleman 
was fidgety, and fuming over the non- 
elucidation of the great Bunbury mys- 
tery not a little. What were the 
police about? he wanted to know. 
When was he to have an opportunity 
of coming forward ? For he still 
laboured under the delusion that as 
soon as his evidence had been taken 
properly and at length, there would be 
no difficulty whatever about the ap- 
prehension of the murderer. 

" Well, sergeant," he exclaimed tes- 
tily, as that officer entered the room, 
" what is it now ? It is singular you 
don't seem to be able to move a step 
in this matter without my assistance, 
and yet I can't get you to listen to 
what 1 have to say." 

"That's just it, Mr.Totterdell; that's 
exactly what I keep telling 'em in the 
Yard," replied Mr. Usher. " ' I can't 
make head or tail of it myself,' says 
I ; ' there's none of you here can do 
any better. If there's one man in 



England who can throw light upon 
the truth, it's Mr. Totterdell. Just 
you let me go and have another 
palaver with him. If this thing's to 
be worked out, it's he and I have got 
to do it.' ' Do as you please,' says 
they ; and here I am. With your 
permission, sir, I'll take a chair to be 
gin with. Nobody knows better than 
you do that one can't exchange views 
upon a matter of such paramount im- 
portance in a hurry." 

" Certainly not, Mr. Usher ; cer- 
tainly not," replied the old gentleman 
with the utmost complacency. " Sit 
down, by all means ; and now, what 
have you got to tell me ? " 

" Well, sir," replied the sergeant, 
smoothing his hat with his handker- 
chief, " the boot happens to be on the 
other leg. I was rather in hopes you 
had something to tell me. A gentle- 
man like you on the spot, and gifted 
with your keen perception in these 
matters, I thought might have picked 
up something." 

"And so I have," chuckled Mr. 
Totterdell. " It's a queer thing — a 
very queer thing ; and I got at it by 
accident. It don't seem much to bear 
on the case, so we'll talk over what 
you've been doing first." 

" Now what on earth," thought Mr. 
Usher, "has this blessed old image 
discovered ? Whether it's any use or 
not, he of course knows no more than 
the man in the moon, and the attempt 
to get it out of him directly I know 
will be a tedious, if not a hopeless, 
business. I had better come the con- 
fidential dodge, and give him a 
glimpse of this letter at once, and 
then, likely enough, he'll boil over." 

" Mr. Totterdell, I depend on you 
not to disclose to a soul what I'm 
going to confide to you," replied Mr. 
Usher in a mysterious whisper ; " but 
the fact is, I've got hold of a scrap of 
writing of this James Foxborough, the 
man you saw at the theatre, and I 
want to know if you can recognise it 
as one of the late Mr. Fossdyke's ha- 
bitual correspondents. You doubtless 
knew most of their handwriting by 
sight — so intimate as you naturally 
were with the family?" 

" Of course," replied Mr. Totterdell 
mendaciously, for he had no know- 
ledge whatever of Fossdyke's business 



146 



AT FAULT 



relations ; but he would have commit- 
ted himself to a very much bigger lie 
at any time sooner than miss an op- 
portunity of gratifying his insatiable 
thirst for gossip. 

"Well," said the sergeant, produc- 
ing the note, still so carefully folded 
that there was little more than the 
signature to be seen, " do you know 
that handwriting ? for that is the writ- 
ing of the man who took John Foss- 
dyke's life." 

" God bless me ! " exclaimed Mr. 
Totterdell as he put on his spectacles. 
" You're sure of this, Mr. Usher ? " 

"As sure as if I had seen him commit 
the murder. Do you know the hand?" 

Mr. Totterdell stared at it for some 
minutes, and then said : " No, I never 
saw it before." 

" Ah well, whenever I can catch 
hold of anybody who can recognise 
that writing, I'll clear up the Bunbury 
murder in less than no time ; and 
now, Mr. Totterdell, what have you to 
tell me?" 

" Well, it mayn't be much," said 
the old gentleman; "but it's odd, odd, 
you see, sergeant — deuced odd. I'm 
sure you'll agree with me when you 
hear it, eh ? " 

" I've got to hear it first," retorted 
Mr. Usher shortly. 

" Of course, quite so, and I'm tell- 
ing you as fast as I can ; you're like 
that old fool on the inquest who was 
always interrupting my evidence," 
said Mr. Totterdell angrily. 

Mr. Usher, exercising wise discre- 
tion, made no reply. 

" Well, I have made a curious dis- 
covery. You must know when the 
Baumborough Theatre was first 
mooted there was, of course, a great 
question how the six thousand or so 
estimated for its erection were to be 
raised. Poor Fossdyke proposed an 
extra rate, and to get at the money 
gradually in that wise ; but I, who had 
just come on the Municipal Council, 
having ascertained that we had some- 
thing like that sum out at mortgage, 
suggested its being called in and used 
for the purpose instead of levying the 
fresh rate." 

" Ah ! " exclaimed Mr. Usher in- 
voluntarily. 

" Eh ! what ? something strikes 
you ? " said Mr. Totterdell, peering 



over his spectacles into the detective's 
face. 

"Quite right," responded Mr. Usher. 
" You always are, sir. I was thinking 
what a thing it was for Baumborough 
when they got you on the Town 
Council." 

" They might have done worse, 
Usher," replied Mr. Totterdell blandly, 
and utterly blind to the sergeant's 
flagrant adulation. " Well, it's a rum 
thing, but though the money was all 
right enough, though John Fossdyke 
accounted for it all to a copper, yet 
there never was such a mortgage 
effected." 

" Ah ! " once more exclaimed Mr. 
Usher softly, " and what interpreta- 
tion, Mr. Totterdell, do you put upon 
that ? " 

" None, Mr. Usher, none ; that is a 
thing for a judge and jury to determine, 
like many other facts I can testify to 
when I get an opportunity." 

" Well, Mr. Totterdell, I'll not take 
up your valuable time any more. 
You've the keystone of the case, 
whenever we can really get it com- 
plete ; but it's growing up, sir, it's 
growing up. I see my way a little bit 
further every day." 

" Capital," responded the old 
gentleman ; " and just between our- 
selves — quite between ourselves, you 
know — where do you suppose the 
scoundrel Foxborough is ? Have you 
any clue ?" 

" Well, yes, I have," said Mr. Usher, 
rising ; "but to a gentleman of your 
astuteness and experience I needn't 
say mum's the word. You understand, 
mum's the word," and so saying the 
sergeant bade Mr. Totterdell good- 
night. 

"Quite right, Mr. Usher, you can 
trust me to keep things quiet. There's 
nobody knows how to keep a quiet 
tongue better than me. Mum's the 
word ! ha, ha ! Good-night ! " 

" Yes, you are right for once, it is," 
quoth the sergeant. " You'll tell 
nobody this time, because you've 
nothing to tell ! but the puzzle's piecing 
out beautifully. If anybody can 
identify this handwriting I'll tell 'em 
the whole story pretty near of the 
Bunbury mystery. Half-past nine. 
Yes, not a bit too late to call upon Dr. 
Ingleby. I don't suppose he will 



THE RIDDLE ABOUT SOLVED 



147 



know this handwriting, but it's worth 
trying. At all events this run to 
Baumborough has been good business. 
I've got an important little bit of 
evidence out of the Totterdell creature 
which just clinches the thing." 

Thus ruminating, Mr. Usher arrived 
at the doctor's door, and, after his 
wont, followed very close on the heels 
of the servant who announced him. 

He found the doctor tranquilly en- 
joying a cigar, and listening to the gay 
castle-building of Herbert Morant 
and Phil Soames. The former es- 
pecially had one of those consti- 
tutionally sanguine temperaments that 
run up palaces on the slightest possi- 
ble foundations. Their palaces, it is 
true, come down about their ears like 
the card houses of childhood, but no 
whit dismayed, they re -erect them 
with exactly the same happy careless- 
ness that characterized their nursery 
days. Dr. Ingleby enjoyed all this 
immensely ; to the quiet, sober, matri- 
monial dreams of Phil Soames, or the 
resplendent visions of Herbert Morant, 
he listened with the keenest interest. 
He liked both the young men, and it 
was good to listen to their healthy 
love stories, to contrast cool, steady 
Phil's strong, steadfast devotion with 
excitable Herbert's passionate adora- 
tion. They loved, these two, quite as 
earnestly as they were capable of ; 
but neither men nor women experi- 
ence the passion in quite the same 
fashion. 

" Well, sergeant," exclaimed Dr. 
Ingleby. " Sit down first, say what it 
is to be next, wine or alcohol, and 
then tell me what you want. You I 
know are much too busy a man to pay 
calls of ceremony. It's not your 
health, is it?" 

" No, doctor," rejoined the sergeant 
laughingly. " It's not my health, and 
I'll call it port if you'll allow me. It's 
just a little matter of business. I've 
got this Bunbury business mapped 
out to a T but for one trifling bit of 
evidence, and I thought I'd just con- 
sult you and Mr. Soames about that. 
Here's my respects," said the ser- 
geant, as he topped off the bumper of 
port the doctor had poured out for 
him, " and very good tipple it is." 

" Well, I'm very glad you are getting 
at the bottom of the mystery," re- 



joined Dr. Ingleby, "but it's a 
question whether these two gentlemen 
or Mrs. Fossdyke will appreciate it. 
I fancy they would all rather it died 
out and was forgotten." 

" Now, listen to me, gentlemen. It 
can't be allowed to die out and be 
forgotten ; it would be an everlasting 
reproach to 'the Yard' if it was. I 
don't quite know that you'll any of 
you like the story when we come to it, 
and come to it we shall, but if it's 
relief to your mind to know James 
Foxborough didn't kill Mr. Fossdyke, 
either by accident or design, you may 
take my word he had nothing to say 
to it." 

The trio stared at the speaker in 
blank amazement. 

" No, gentlemen," continued the 
sergeant, " I don't turn my cat out of 
the bag until I'm quite certain I can 
catch her again. What have I come 
here for ? As the doctor says, if it 
ain't my constitution gone wrong, what 
is it ? Well, it is this, both you and 
Mr. Soames, doctor, must have known 
something about Mr. Fossdyke's 
friends and correspondents." 

" His friends, yes," rejoined the 
doctor, " his correspondents, no. He 
was an extremely reticent man about 
his business transactions, and intimate 
as I was with him I knew nothing of 
them." 

"And you, Mr. Soames?" asked 
the detective. 

" Still less, if that be possible. He 
was scarce likely to confide in a young 
man like me what he concealed from 
an old friend like Dr. Ingleby." 

" Unlucky, but I'm afraid then, 
gentlemen, you can't help me ; how- 
ever, as I have come to see Dr. Ingle- 
by for a specific purpose, I'm going to 
play the cards out." 

Mr. Usher dived into his breast- 
pocket for a moment, and then from 
the depths of a formidable pocket- 
book produced the famous letter, 
folded still so that little but the signa- 
ture was decipherable. " Do you 
know that handwriting, sir ? " he 
asked as he handed it to Dr. Ingle- 
by. 

" Not in the least," replied the 
doctor after a cool and steady in- 
vestigation. 

" And you, Mr. Soames ? " inquired 



148 



Al bAULT 



the sergeant, as he pushed the piece ol 
paper across. 

Phil stared at it for some minutes, 
and then replied as he returned it, 
" No ; to the best of my belief I never 
saw that handwriting before." 

" It's hard, very hard," remarked the 
sergeant ; " to know who wrote those 
few lines is to put the prettiest and 
most interesting case complete before 
the public I ever took charge of; and 
yet, dash me, I'm beat on that point, 
though there must be hundreds of 

people who could testify to it. D d 

if I don't have it photographed and 
inserted as an advertisement in all the 
dailies." 

" May I look at it, Mr. Usher ? " 
inquired Morant. 

" Oh, Lord, yes. I meant to keep 
it dark, but anybody's welcome to see 
it now." 

Herbert scanned as much as he 
was allowed to see of the note for a 
few minutes, and then as he threw it 
back across the table to the detective, 
said quietly, " I am pretty certain I 
know who wrote that. It was " 

" Hush, sir ! for God's sake, hush !" 
cried Sergeant Usher, springing to his 
feet. " I'm going to ask you for forty- 
eight hours to let nobody but myself 
know the name. If he's in England I 
shall be able to lay my hand upon him 
by that, but leakage, gentlemen, is 
fatal in these inquiries. If you don't 
know you can't let anything out. Isn't 
it so ? You'll forgive me, Dr. Ingleby, 
and you, too, Mr. Soames, when I 
once more say — see me to the door, 
please, Mr. Morant ; tell me the 
name, and tell nobodv else for two 
days." 

" I think you may do what the 
sergeant asks you," said Dr. Ingleby ; 
" Phil's curiosity and mine can last 
out forty-eight hours. Good-night, 
Mr. Usher ; I know you want to be 
off now. See him to the door, Mor- 
ant, and breathe your secret on the 
threshold." 

" That's it, sir— that's it ; good- 
night, gentlemen. Come, Mr. Mor- 
ant." 

With which words, Herbert and 
the detective disappeared. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

MR. CUDEMORE'S LOVE-MAKING 

Dogged, persistent, and defiant as 
Mr. Cudemore is in his resolve to 
marry Nid Foxborough, still he is not 
altogether quite satisfied with the way 
his cards are playing. To begin 
upon, he had reckoned when Fox- 
borough's disappearance threw the 
Syringa, so to speak, in the hollow of 
his hand, that Mrs. Foxborough 
would be at his feet ; that her anxiety 
to retain the lesseeship of the music 
hall would render her perfectly sub- 
servient to his wishes, and that Nid's 
hand was to be the price of his 
assistance he had made up his mind. 
But Mrs. Foxborough seemed very 
indifferent as to whether she kept the 
Syringa or not, whilst as for Nid, she 
was difficult to catch sight of ; still 
when the pressure really came, when 
it was actually brought home to her 
that unless she begged help from him, 
Cudemore, her anxiety to retain the 
management of the music hall might 
be unavailing, he fancied Mrs. Fox- 
borough would be only too glad to 
come to terms. Another thing, too, 
that somewhat disturbed Mr. Cude- 
more's equanimity was the discovery 
of Timothy on the second floor. 
What the deuce was the boy doing up 
there? He might say he was only 
closing the dressing-room door, but 
the money-lender was quite convinced 
in his own mind that he really came 
out of the room. The boy had never 
come up to that floor before to seek 
him, what made him do it this time ? 
His people always knew pretty well 
whether he was in or out ; and it was 
in the sitting-room on the first floor 
that they looked for him, if in doubt. 
He could never recall to mind either 
of his clerks, senior or junior, seeking 
him on the floor above. There was 
no one less likely to stand his affairs 
being pried into than Mr. Cudemore, 
and that gentleman speedily made up 
his mind that Timothy's services 
might be advantageously dispensed 
with. He accordingly sent for that 
acute young gentleman into his 
private business-room and blandly re- 
marked — 

" You are a very intelligent and 
excellent boy, Timothy, but you might 



MR. CUBE MO RE'S LOVE-MAKING 



[49 



remember I expect my people to keep 
close to their own business and not 
trouble themselves about anything 
further. I engaged you, remember, 
as second clerk at the liberal salary of 
fifteen shillings a week, and your 
duties were confined to the reception 
of visitors in the outer office, and 
ascertaining, if I was upstairs, 
whether I wished to see them or not." 

" Well, sir, how was I to know 
whether you was in or not if I didn't 
come to see ?" 

"Just so, Timothy, but you weren't 
required to look under the bed or 
into the bath for me, or to overhaul 
my boots or brush my clothes, 
Timothy. It was considerate in the 
extreme taking upon yourself the 
duties of a valet as well as a clerk, 
but you see I prefer my people to 
confine themselves to what I am pay- 
ing them for, and therefore, my young 
friend, here are your week's wages, 
and henceforth I will dispense with 
your valuable services." 

" I suppose I needn't come no more, 
then, after to-night ? " rejoined the 
boy doggedly. 

'' Just so, that's it. I shall have no 
objection to give you a recommenda- 
tion, and vouch that you are willing 
and intelligent ; a little too willing, in 
fact, anxious apparently to do every- 
thing. Next time, my boy, whatever 
it may be, take my advice and stick 
closely to your own business." 

Timothy said never a word, but 
picked up his money and with a quiet 
bow to his employer returned to the 
outer office, over which he still held 
sway. 

Now, this again somewhat puzzled 
Mr. Cudemore. He expected the 
boy to plead vigorously against dis- 
missal, to volunteer further explana- 
tion of his conduct, and Timothy had 
done nothing of the kind, but ac- 
quiesced with dogged resignation in 
his sentence. It was not very likely 
that anything he could say would 
have made the slightest difference to 
Mr. Cudemore, but then that gentle- 
man did expect him to say it, and to 
one of his suspicious turn of mind 
this afforded grave food for reflection. 
Mr. Cudemore engaged in a good 
many transactions that, though not 
illegal exactly, were of the kind de- 



nominated shady. He was not wont to 
trust his clerks very much about any- 
thing, more especially was he unlikely 
to place confidence in a boy like 
Timothy ; he certainly could call to 
mind nothing of the slightest conse- 
quence of which the boy had know- 
ledge, and yet he felt uneasy at 
Timothy's easy acquiescence in his 
dismissal. Another curious circum- 
stance, too, was that the mysterious 
gentleman who declined to leave his 
name had never called again. 

Musing somewhat irritably over all 
these things, Mr. Cudemore seized his 
hat and determined to call at Tapton 
Cottage. 

He was so peremptory in his 
demand to see Mrs. Foxborough on a 
matter of business, that the girl who 
opened the door succumbed at once 
and ushered him into the drawing- 
room before Nid, who was coiled up 
in a big arm-chair in front of the fire 
immersed in a novel, had any notice 
to escape. 

" Miss Foxborough," exclaimed 
Cudemore, "this is indeed an unex- 
pected pleasure," as he advanced to 
take a hand which was not extended 
to him. 

Nid had sprung to her feet and 
greeted him with the most formal 
reverence ; and how stately the little 
lady could be when she stood upon 
her dignity must have been seen to 
be believed. Cudemore was a bold, 
reckless rou/, and wild about this girl, 
and both Nid and her mother knew it, 
as only women do know these things. 
A chit not out of the schoolroom 
knows intuitively when a man is at 
her feet. But to do Nid justice no 
young lady was ever less proud of a 
conquest than she, whilst we already 
know Mrs. Foxborough's opinion on 
the subject. 

" Let mamma know at once, Ellen, 
that Mr. Cudemore is here," said Nid 
imperiously. 

" Yes, miss," rejoined the parlour- 
maid, and she knew at once from her 
young mistress's authoritative tones 
that she had done wrong to admit the 
visitor. 

" Pray tell Mrs. Foxborough that it 
is nothing pressing, and that my time 
is hers," exclaimed Cudemore boldly, 
as Ellen turned to leave the room. 



r.5o 



AT FAULT 



Very angry was Nid at the man's 
manner, but still he had got into the 
house and must be treated with some 
sort of courtesy. So she motioned 
him to a chair. 

" If you knew, Miss Foxborough, 
how I have longed for this oppor- 
tunity." 

" Mamma, I'm sure, won't keep you 
waiting long," replied Nid with wilful 
misapprehension, albeit a little de- 
fiantly. 

" It is you I want to speak to more 
than your mother," he replied. 
" Young women are not blind, and 
there is no need for me to tell you 
how passionately I love you." 

" You couldn't expect me to listen 
to such language at this time under 
any circumstances," rejoined Nid 
nervously. " You seem to forget, sir, 
the affliction that overshadows us, 
the gloom that hangs over the house." 

"I speak, Nydia, because first there 
is further misfortune threatening you. 
Your mother will lose the Syringa 
unless she listens to my counsel." 

" Meaning," cried Nid, springing to 
her feet, with her cheeks aflame and 
her eyes ablaze, " that my miserable 
self is the price you propose for such 
assistance." 

" You're not in the least miserable ; 
on the contrary, you're devilish 
pretty," he replied insolently, " and 
never looked handsomer than you do 
this minute." 

" I'll not stay here to be insulted," 
exclaimed Nid. " Were my father 
alive you would never have dared 
make that speech to me ; as it is you 
may chance to rue it bitterly." 

" I've not heard of your father's 
death," replied Cudemore coarsely, 
as he.placed himself between her and 
the door. " But if you are threaten- 
ing me with the vengeance of the red- 
haired admirer, I tell you I am not 
much alarmed." 

" He's a man, sir," cried Nid furi- 
ously, "which you are not ! He's a 
gentleman, sir, which you are not ; 
and were he in the room you would 
be on your back on the floor this 
minute ! " 

" Bah ! " replied Cudemore con- 
temptuously. " Listen to me, Nydia. 
Herbert Morant is a broken man. 
He has no money ; he never will 



have ; there are some men who have 
no faculty for making it : he is one. 
Marry me, and you shall have car- 
riages, diamonds, and all that 
woman's sou! rejoices in." 

"Some women, perhaps," rejoined 
Nid, with a contempt bitter as his 
own. " Go into the market, Mr. 
Cudemore, and buy for your seraglio 
if you will, but never insult me again 
with what you are pleased to term 
your love. You don't even know the 
meaning of the word." 

" I understand it in my own man- 
ner," laughed the money-lender, "and a 
more tempting little morsel was never 
put before an epicure than you. Don't 
be ridiculous, child. Do you think your 
sentimental idealism of that passion 
will long survive darning socks and 
cooking mutton-chops for that red- 
headed calf in a second floor at Pim- 
lico ? I offer you again a good house, 
a French cook, and your milliner's 
bills shall be paid and not looked at. 
What is it you see in him to out- 
balance all this ? " 

Nid drew herself up to the full 
extent of her small stature, and then 
said, " He is simply a gentleman, sir, 
which you neither are nor ever will 
be. He loves a woman and doesn't 
propose to buy her. I've never been 
so insulted in my life. Let me pass." 

" Not without a kiss, my beauty," 
cried the money-lender, his brutal 
nature stung to madness by her last 
speech ; and as he spoke he caught 
the girl in his arms and impressed 
three or four passionate kisses on her 
cheeks. 

, " You brute, you beast ! " . cried 
Nid, more vehement than lady-like 
in her language. " Help, , mother ! 
where are you ? " As she spoke 
the door opened, and Mrs. Foxborough 
entered. 

" How dare you, Mr. Cudemore ! " 
she cried, all aflame at the sight of 
Nid struggling in his embrace. " You 
coward, to dare lay a hand on my 
child ! " 

" I apologize," replied the money- 
lender as he released the girl ; " my 
passion, I own, overcame convention- 
alities. I apologize to you ; I apolo- 
gize to Miss Foxborough, though her 
attractions are enough to turn any 
man's head. Still, remember in ex- 



"BREAST-HIGH SCENT" 



151 



t^nuation, I have offered her mar- 
riage, and a superb establishment." 

" Which have been indignantly re- 
jected," cried Nid impetuously through 
her tears. " I would sooner earn my 
living by sweeping floors than be his 
wife." 

" Listen, little lady. I've tried to win 
you by fair promises, such as men 
most dazzle women's eyes with. Now 
hear the other side of the question. 
.Marry me, or out your mother goes of 
the Syringa the day the foreclosure of 
the mortgage can be enforced." 

" And out she will go," rejoined 
Mrs. Foxborough fiercely, " and reck 
little about it. In the meantime I'll 
trouble you to leave this house, and 
never set foot in it, nor lay hand on its 
knocker again." 

" Good," returned the money-lender 
in a low voice that trembled with pas- 
sion. " You are right, Mrs. Fox- 
borough, to turn from your door 
the one man who might perchance 
clear your husband's character. You 
hold it in great esteem now ; when 
you are a little more enlightened, per- 
haps you may change your opinion." 

" My poor husband, I have no 
doubt, I shall never see more," replied 
Mrs. Foxborough proudly ; " and 
you can hardly except his wife and 
daughter to listen calmly to insults 
to his memory. You have already, 
by your brutal insolence, frightened 
this child to death," continued Mrs. 
Foxborough, clasping the excited and 
beautiful girl closer in her embrace. 
" Leave |the house this instant, or I 
shall call in the assistance of the 
police ; and, mark me, I neither desire 
nor will continue to manage the 
Syringa while it involves meeting you 
in any way." 

" I will spare your invoking the 
assistance of the police," replied Cude- 
more brutally ; " they have had 
rather more than their fair share of 
surveillance of this house lately. 
You will regret your rude rejection of 
my offer before many weeks are over, 
believe me." 

Mrs. Foxborough's sole reply was 
a contemptuous motion to the door, 
and, with an ironical bow, Mr. Cude- 
more took his departure. 

" I couldn't have believed a man 
of education could be such an utter 



brute," sobbed Nid, who, plucky as 
she had been through the tempest, 
had now broken down completely. 
Again she passed her handkerchief 
across her face, and at last mur- 
mured, " Pah ! mother darling, I must 
go and wash it ; the stain of his filthy 
kisses is on my cheek still, and every 
one an insult, though, thank God, not 
treachery to Herbert." 

" Go and lie down a bit, pet. You 
are a little upset, and no wonder, at 
such a trying scene. One word more, 
darling. I wouldn't say anything 
about it when I wrote to Herbert if I 
were you. It would only lead to un- 
pleasantness for him, which I'm sure 
you don't want, and I'm quite able to 
take care you shall never be so in- 
sulted again. Trust your mother, 
sweet, and call in Herbert when she 
fails you." 

" As if I didn't always, and as if she 
ever did fail me," cried Nid impetu- 
ously ; and having given Mrs. Fox- 
borough a hug, the girl ran off to her 
own room. 

" Confound it," muttered Mr. Cude- 
more. " I've made a pretty mess of 
things. I always do lose my head 
about a woman ; that child looked so 
pretty to-day, and riled me so awfully, 
I couldn't resist taking the sauciness 
out of her. Besides, who could guess 
the little fool would made such a fuss 
about a kiss ? They don't usually, 
so far as my experience goes." 

Mr. Cudemoi-e's experience had 
been gathered in a somewhat mere- 
tricious school, where the prompt, 
audacious, and especially the wealthy 
lover was highly appreciated, 



CHAPTER XXXII 

"breast-high scent" 

Men of Sergeant Usher's profession, 
like all men engaged in the hard 
practical business of life, are as speedy 
in resolve as quick in execution. The 
detective conned the information he 
had just acquired on his way to his 
hotel, where he immediately paid his 
bill, then threw himself and his bag 
into the omnibus which, as he knew 
without looking at the time-table, 



152 



FAULT 



caught the last train to town. There 
are many problems solved on the 
railway in these days ; it is bound to 
be so. Look at the many hours busi- 
ness and professional men pass on it, 
and that they should think out intri- 
cate problems in the easy embrace of 
a first-class carriage is but natural. 

" It's a beautiful case," mused Mr. 
Usher. " I don't know that I ever 
had the solving of a prettier puzzle. 
How beautiful it begins to piece out ! 
I could almost tell the public the whole 
story now, but I've a few minor links 
to collect before the chain of evidence 
is complete. I don't think the public 
will regard the police as duffers much 
longer when they've heard my exposi- 
tion of the Bunbury mystery." 

" Now, let me see," continued Mr. 
U sher, " the first person I've got to 
see is Miss Lightcomb, and the first 
thing I want is a copy of the Era to 
ascertain where she may be ; that 
I'll buy at Charing Cross ; just a few 
words at the Yard to tell them what to 
do, and to-morrow morning I'm off to 
have a quarter of an hour's talk with 
Miss L." On arrival at the terminus 
Mr. Usher, having possessed himself 
of the principal theatrical journal, 
took a cab and drove home to his 
lodgings in Spring Gardens. A few 
minute's study of the Era showed him 
Miss Lightcomb was at present enact- 
ing leading lady at the Theatre Royal, 
Plymouth. 

"It's a nuisance," muttered the 
sergeant, " but I am used to it ; im- 
portant witnesses always do get into 
remote corners when specially wanted : 
here's this girl plays at Margate when 
I can make no particular use of her, 
and now I want to see her special, of 
course, she's got to the other end of 
the kingdom. Well, there's nothing 
for it but just to give 'em instructions 
over the way (and here Mr. Usher 
jerked his head in the direction of 
Scotland Yard), and be off to Ply- 
mouth by the first train in the morn- 
ing." 

Arrived there, the sergeant naturally 
proceeded to the theatre and inquired 
for Miss Lightcomb. On explaining 
who he was he was furnished with 
her address, and at once departed in 
quest of the lady. But he he was 
once more disappointed ; the actress 



had gone to a picnic party, and would 
only return in time to fulfil her duties 
at the theatre. Musing sadly over 
the absurdity of a witness in a great 
murder case condescending to the 
frivolity of picnics, and reflecting that 
after all Miss Lightcomb had very 
little conception that she could give 
any evidence whatever concerning the 
Bunbury mystery, Mr. Usher remem- 
bered that it was time to sustain 
nature, and went off in search of 
something to eat. Like an Indian on 
the war-trail, the sergeant could do 
without either food or sleep if exigen- 
cies required it, but as an old cam- 
paigner he understood the husbanding 
of his resources, and neglected taking 
in neither when a lull in affairs 
permitted. He meant returning to 
town by the night mail if he could, 
but he had come down to have ten 
minutes' talk with Miss Lightcomb, 
and, of course, was not going back 
till he had achieved that. But the 
actress only arrived at the theatre just 
in time to dress for her role, which, as 
it happened, was a heavy one, and 
sent word upon receiving Mr. Usher's 
card that it was impossible she could 
see him till after the performance, so 
the sergeant was fain to sit and pass 
critical judgment on Miss Lightcomb's 
histrionic powers in the " Bride of the 
Caucasus." But the curtain fell at 
last, and then Mr. Usher made his 
way rapidly behind the scenes. 

" I cannot say I am glad to see 
you," said the actress as the sergeant 
entered her dressing-room. "You 
frighten me, and I really know 
nothing of this Bunbury mystery." 

" Now, don't you be alarmed, Miss 
Lightcomb. Nobody for one moment 
supposes you do, or that there is any 
little bit of information you would not 
willingly put at our disposal if you 
only fancied it bore the least upon the 
case." 

" I have told you I cannot recollect 
all who spoke to me that night, there 
were so many gentlemen compli- 
mented me on my acting," rejoined 
Miss Lightcomb wearily. 

The girl was tired out with her 
day's pleasure, and her night's acting, 
and was anxious to get her supper 
and go to bed, and had no fancy for 
being cross-examined by Mr. Usher. 



" BREAST-HIGH SCENT' 



153 



" Don't you get fidgety, Miss Light- 
comb," replied the sergeant, taking 
in the state of things at a glance. " I 
shan't detain you three minutes. Do 
you know the original of this photo- 
graph ?" and as he spoke he produced 
the carte of John Fossdyke. 

" No," rejoined the actress after 
glancing at it. 

" I didn't suppose you would," re- 
joined Mr. Usher. " Now do you 
know Mr. Cudemore?" 

" Certainly of course, why?" 

"Didn't you speak to him behind 
the scenes on the opening night of 
the Baumborough Theatre ?" 

"Yes, now you mention it, I recol- 
lect I did," replied Miss Lightcomb 
after a minute or two's reflection. " I 
remember being so surprised at see- 
ing him there." 

" I need not detain you another 
moment, Miss Lightcomb, that is the 
one fact I wanted from you. If I 
don't tell you what it means the daily 
papers will in three days' time. If 
you could only have recollected that 
when I called upon you at Margate." 

" I'm sure I'm very sorry, Mr. 
Usher, but really his name never 
occurred to me." 

" I know it. Of course it is difficult 
seeing so many new faces, as you 
must do, to recollect who you may 
speak to on any particular night, and 
unluckily I wasn't in a position then 
to assist your memory." 

" But surely I shan't be called upon 
to appear in court?" asked the actress 
somewhat dolorously. 

" I am afraid," replied the sergeant, 
"you will, but you won't be detained 
five minutes in the box, and you must 
comfort yourself that disagreeable as 
it is for a lady it will bring your name 
prominently before the public, and 
prove a valuable professional adver- 
tisement. If you have only a friend 
or two on the press it may do you a 
deal of good in the long run ; and 
now I'll wish you good-night, with 
many apologies for giving you so 
much trouble." 

Very polite and considerate was 
Sergeant Usher, and Miss Light- 
comb's horror at the idea of being 
compelled to appear in the witness- 
box vns considerably mollified at the 
idea of what a great gratuitous adver- 



tisement the being mixed up in such 
a cause calibre would be for her. 
Moreover, she had so little to do with 
the whole thing, and was so utterly 
innocent in the matter, that she felt 
pretty safe from awkward questions. 
Mr. Cudemore had never been more 
to her than an ordinary acquaintance. 

The ubiquitous Usher was off to 
town by the morning train, and made, 
as usual, a first visit to headquarters, 
there to learn that, according to his 
instructions, Mr. Cudemore had never 
been lost sight of, and could be laid 
hands upon at any moment ; that he 
had apparently no intention of ab- 
sconding, but that he was watched 
day and night, and would be arrested 
at once should he show a sign of 
doing so. 

" No, let him alone another day or 
two. It's a lovely case, and upon my 
soul, when I've got it complete, I 
must put the bracelets on him myself," 
replied the sergeant, " but never let 
him out of sight, mind." 

" It's risky, Usher," said one of his 
colleagues. "A cunning fox like this, 
with command of money, may slip 
you any moment, watch him close as 
you like. You know best what reason 
you have now for leaving him at large, 
but, mind, once lost sight of, he may 
take a deal of catching." 

" Right you are, Dickinson," replied 
Mr. Usher, rubbing his hands softly ; 
"but an artist like yourself would do 
as I do. It's one of the most perfect 
riddles ever I solved, and I have only 
two more inquiries to make. One in 
London, and another in Baumbor- 
ough. Superfluous, it might be urged, 
and quite to be gone into after you 
had jugged your bird, but I do like to 
get my case quite complete before I 
pounce." 

" I know it, old man," replied Dick- 
inson, laughing, "only don't wait to 
pounce till there's nothing to pounce 
upon. Remember a hawk may hover 
too long." 

" Never fear, never fear," rejoined 
the sergeant, "this one won't slip us, 
I'll go bail," and with this observation 
Mr. Usher betook himself to the 
Wellington Restaurant, Spring Gar- 
dens, to dine. 

The sergeant greatly affected this 
place. It was a quiet, modest little 



«r>4 



AT FAULT 



dining-room, close to his own lodg- 
ings, frequented by sedate, steady- 
going people who lived in the immedi- 
ate vicinity. Bank clerks, lawyers' 
clerks, etc., but nobody who affected 
swelldom ever appeared across its 
threshold any more than did the gen- 
tish or raffish element of London life. 
It was too slow for these latter, a 
terra incognita to the former. That a 
detective officer should be a mere 
shade, or impersonality, or abstract 
fact is no doubt true ; but still they 
must be known to some few people, 
and at the Wellington the famous 
Sergeant Usher was both known and 
respected. 

" Something to eat, quick, William," 
he observed to the waiter, as he made 
his way to a rather favourite corner 
table. 

" Pea soup, sir ; a nice slice of 
cod, and a beef steak would perhaps 
about meet the case, Mr. Usher," re- 
turned William, who was quite a privi- 
leged functionary with the habitues. 

"That's about it," rejoined the ser- 
geant, " with a pint of stout and a 
little hot grog to follow." 

" Very good, sir, I'll give 'em the 
order at once," and the waiter bustled 
away. He soon returned, and whisk- 
ing about the table after the fashion 
waiters have when business is slack, of 
putting a knife straight there, shifting 
a cruet-stand from one side the table to 
the other here, and then taking a glass 
into custody on suspicion of not being 
quite clean, and putting it through a 
severe course of polishing with the 
napkin under their arm, combined 
with a rearrangement of the three 
or four sticks of property celery 
always on hand in such places in 
the winter season. 

At last he bustled out and returned 
with the stout and the soup. 

" There's been a boy hanging about 
here, Mr. Usher, very anxious to see 
you all yesterday and to-day. Don't 
know what he is exactly, but he's in 
one of these offices up the way. He's 
a plate of cold meat here at lunch 
time now and again, and is wolfish 
about the vegetables, but he ain't a bad 
sort for his time of life. Never forgets 
his penny, sir, to me, and pennies 
ain't plentiful with him, neither, I'd 
bet." 



" Then why do you take it fron, 
him ? " asked the sergeant drily. 

" Now, Mr. Usher, what is the use 
of talking like that? Did you ever 
know of a waiter who refused his 
fees ? No, sir ; and what's more," 
continued William, dropping his tones 
to a mysterious whisper, '' if any one 
of us did, it's my impression he'd 
quickly become a case for your pro- 
fessional investigation." 

" Go and get the fish ! " retorted 
the sergeant grimly. 

" Certainly, sir, certainly," and 
William vanished, only to return 
speedily with a handsome slice of 
boiled cod. 

" But about this boy, sir. I really 
have to pretend not to see him, he's 
that wolfish about the greens, and — 
God bless my soul, sir, here he 
comes." 

As he spoke, Tim entered the room, 
and at once seeing the sergeant in the 
almost empty room, for the detective 
was dining at a rather nondescript 
hour, walked straight to his table. 

" Mr. Usher, sir, isn't it ? " inquired 
Tim. 

" Yes, my lad," replied the sergeam 
quietly. 

" And I see by the papers you are 
in charge of the great Bunbury 
murder." 

"Just so." 

" Well, there's a deal of money for 
any one who'll give information con- 
cerning it." 

" Now, look here, my boy, don't 
you fall into any mistake of that sort. 
There's £,ioo for anybody who can 
give information that may lead to the 
apprehension of James Foxborough. 
Offer withdrawn to-night, because I 
know where to find him." 

"Then if I'd a bit of valuable in- 
formation to give I should get nothing 
for it ? " replied Tim in a disappointed 
voice. 

" No, I don't say that, you would 
get something, but certainly not ,£200 
nor anything like it. William, you 
had better go and look after the 
steak, and you needn't hurry with it 
for the next five minutes," added the 
sergeant significantly. 

" Now, my lad, look here, I know 
all about you. You're Cudemore'? 
clerk, that's what you are." 



LOOKING OUT THE KEYSTONE 



155 



For a minute Timothy stated in 
simple awe of the omniscient de- 
tective, whose knowledge in this case 
was by no means singular ; then he 
replied, " I was, but he's discharged 
me." 

"Ha, what for?" 

" I don't know, exactly, it may be 
he thought I knew too much. He 
caught me coming out of his bed- 
room, where I admit, Mr. Usher, I'd 
no business. He said he had hired 
me as a clerk, and not as a valet, and 
gave me the sack there and then." 

" He was about right," rejoined the 
sergeant ; " you're one of those young 
gentlemen who are just a shade too 
sharp to live." 

" No ; but, Mr. Usher, if I could 
tell you where Mr. Cudemore was on 
the day of the Bunbury murder, what 
would you give me for that ? " 

" Nothing ; what's it got to do with 
the case ?" 

" I don't know, but it might have." 

" Precisely, and so might your dis- 
missal ; but it don't strike me as 
bearing much upon it." 

" Then 1 suppose it's no use say- 
ing anything more?" rejoined Tim 
doggedly. 

" You know best about that. You 
know best what put it into your head 
that Mr. Cudemore's journey to Bun- 
bury had anything to do with the 
Hopbine murder." 

" You know that ? " exclaimed Tim, 
and his open mouth and utter be- 
wilderment really tickled the detec- 
tive's vanity more than anything he 
had encountered for some time. 

" Of course I do, and everything 
else about it. Look here, my lad, I 
can do perfectly well without you, 
but if you really have any evidence to 
give, now's your time, and you must 
leave it to me to appraise. It may be 
worth a fiver, but I doubt it. Re- 
member I can find you any time, and 
make you speak now." 

Tim was utterly crushed. He re- 
cognised that the great detective 
carried too many guns for him, and it 
was quite meekly he replied, " Well, 
sir, all I know is this, there's a 
Bunbury railway label on Mr. Cude- 
more's portmanteau, and that he 
returned from the country the morn- 
ing the murder was discovei ert, 



and has never been out of town 
since." 

"That'll do, my lad. You'll make 
a pound or two out of that ; leave 
your address here, and now you can 
go, I'm tired. Come along with that 
steak, William, and bring me six of 
Irish hot, please." 

Timothy slowly left the place with 
a respect for Sergeant Usher that 
bordered on grovelling. 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

LOOKING OUT THE KEYSTONE 

Sergeant Usher over the Bunbury 
mystery is now a sight for the gods, 
as the old books say. One can under- 
stand it ; when we have achieved the 
solution of any great mental problem, 
there is always an inclination, speak- 
ing figuratively, to stand upon our 
head or throw our hat into the air ; 
notable especially in the solving of 
that great annual spring riddle on 
Epsom Downs, when those who have 
successfully elucidated the great con- 
undrum are wont to express their 
satisfaction in fantastic fashion. 

" It's a lovely puzzle," chuckled Ser- 
geant Usher as he smoked his pipe 
in his own lodgings in Spring Gar- 
dens, " and it's all put together now 
with the exception of the last few bits, 
and they are obvious." 

" First thing is to see if Sturton 
knows this handwriting," and here 
Mr. Usher tapped his breast-pocket 
in which he kept the precious note 
and the photograph of the late John 
Fossdyke ; " according to my reckon- 
ing he will. 

" Secondly, to see if that wearisome 
old creature, Totterdell, recognises 
this as the photograph of the man who 
sat next him at the opening of the 
Baumborough Theatre, which, of 
course, he won't. 

" Lastly, if I can, to get hold of a 
photograph of Mr. Cudemore, and 
then show Totterdell that, and if it 
don't give him fits, well I'm mistaken 
some. Now, how the deuce am I tc 
get about this last business ? Yes, I 



l 5<> 



AT FAULT 



think my precocious young friend, 
with his still more precocious views 
.egarding the ,£200 reward, might 
really earn a ,£10 note over this little 
bit of business. In the meantime," 
said Mr. Usher, still chuckling with 
satisfaction at his piecing of the puzzle, 
"a man of fashion like me really ought 
to get a new rig-out from Sturton. 
None of your reach-me-down ready- 
money tailors for a man of my 
position. Dukes and detectives 
should be waited on by first-rate 
artists, and, yes, by first-rate tickists ; 
Sturton taking my order for a frock- 
coat and all to match, and doing my 
little ninety days' bill for a hundred. 
O Lord," said Mr. Usher, bursting 
into a fit of laughter ; "just to think 
«f myself as a real Bond Street loun- 
ger. It's a rum 'un, it is." 

Sergeant Usher had put the obtain- 
ing Mr. Cudemore's photograph last 
in his cogitations because it was by 
far the least important of the three 
last bricks in his arch of evidence. 
Miss Lightcomb, Mr. Totterdell, the 
people at the Hopbine, and the label 
on the portmanteau, all sufficed really 
to identify the money-lender if he was 
the man, as the sergeant had now no 
manner of doubt he was ; but, as was 
before said, Mr. Usher was an artist, 
and liked to hand his cases over to 
the Solicitors of the Treasury without 
a flaw in them. 

The first thing the sergeant did was 
to send for Timothy Whipple, that 
very junior, and now dismissed, clerk. 

Gentlemen of Mr. Cudemore's voca- 
tion usually find one confidential clerk 
quite enough for their actual require- 
ments, although a junior or two of the 
Whipple calibre are useful. Timothy, 
although he had been sternly dis- 
abused of that Golconda-like dream 
of grasping the £200 reward, still 
cherished hopes that he might realize 
something handsome by his informa- 
tion, and responded to Mr. Usher's 
summons with alacrity. It would 
have been utterly wanting in accord- 
ance with the sergeant's practice to 
ask any one to call upon him at his 
own lodgings, so the Wellington Rest- 
aurant was the trysting - place he 
selected. There he found Timothy 
duly awaiting his arrival over a pint, 
of ale and some bread and cheese. 



" Now, my lad," said Mr. Usher, 
" you really, considering your age, 
have some little gumption. That 
portmanteau business is creditable ; 
not much importance to us, but credit- 
able. Now it's just possible you might 
earn an honest ten-pun note over this 
business. It might run to that, al- 
though we can easy do without you. 
But remember, this time you're work- 
ing to orders, and when people don't 
act strictly to my orders, they'd best 
lead lives of virtue and circumspec- 
tion. Now, I shouldn't think, my 
young friend, that'll be quite your fu- 
ture. If you don't turn gamekeeper 
you'll become poacher ; if you don't 
join us you'll drift into the ranks of 
the criminal classes." 

" I'm sure, Mr. Usher, I'll do any- 
thing you tell me," replied Timothy 
meekly. 

" Well, look here, my lad. Mr. 
Cudemore's given you the sack, but 
still for all that you might be able to 
get what I want, and that is Mr. 
Cudemore's photograph. Do you 
think you can ? " 

" I can't be sure, sir. He's a book 
of 'em in his sitting-room, and I'm 
pretty sure there's one of himself in 
that ; but you know, Mr. Usher, 1 
can't make very sure of getting into 
that room now," 

" There's no making sure of any- 
thing much in this world," rejoined 
the sergeant sententiously, " but 
you'll make sure of a tenner if you'll 
manage that, and to a young gentle- 
man of your sort, who's out of em- 
ployment, and don't permit his 
imagination to run riot, that should 
represent profitable business." 

Tim simply thanked the omniscient 
one, promised to do his best, and 
withdrew. 

" It ain't of much account," mut- 
tered the sergeant, "but I do like to 
send in a case complete." 

The next thing that Mr. Usher had 
to achieve was obviously to interview 
the fashionable Bond Street tailor, 
and there, accordingly, the sergeant 
proceeded next and sent in his card. 

Mr. Sturton was at home, and at 
once sent out word that he should be 
happy to see the eminent Scotland 
Yard official. 

" Well, Mr. Usher, what can T do 



LOOKING OUT THE KEYSTONE 



157 



tor you?" inquired the Bond Street 
nuu'slio urbanely. 

The humour of the situation tickled 
the sergeant, and it was with a grim 
smile that he retorted, " Well, you 
know a gentleman in my profession 
wants a good many costumes at times. 
Now, suppose 1 ask you to pitch me 
out as a real swell about town ? " 

The great sartorial artist was some 
two or three minutes before he made 
reply, during which he eyed his visi- 
tor gravely ; at last he refused. " No 
offence, I trust, Mr. Usher, but it's 
best to be candid in these cases. I'd 
do my very best for you, but you 
couldn't look it, not if we did our 
utmost to oblige you. Now, please, 
don't get angry, because I shall be 
only too willing to do all I can to as- 
sist. Listen to me ! as the slightly 
eccentric member for West Broad- 
acres, member of the Carlton, and 
with violent Conservative tendencies, 
I can turn you out to the nines, or if 
you like it better as the advanced 
Radical member for Flareupperton, 
rejected of the Reform, because he 
goes a little too far for that played-out 
institution, I also can do you justice. 
As a man of fashion, Mr. Usher, you 
won't come off." 

The sergeant gave vent to a grim 
chuckle at his little joke, and said, 
" Well, Mr. Sturton, it's not quite true 
then that men are what their tailors 
make them." 

" Good heavens, Mr. Usher ! " cried 
the enthusiastic Sturton, who really 
did believe in his profession, "it isn't 
every clay suits the sculptor, and 
goodness knows it isn't every clay 
that suits the tailor. No disparage- 
ment, my friend, but it's not in the 
power of broad-cloth, tweed, serge, or 
angola to turn out a lord." 

" And you wouldn't if you could," 
retorted the sergeant, perfectly aware 
of Mr. Sturton's weakness, "not you ; 
nobody knows better the days that 
are coming, and that coronets will be 
amongst the relics of history, eh ?" 

" Well," replied Mr. Sturton, who, 
despite his professed Radical 
opinions, entertained a servile adora- 
tion for the aristocracy, " they are not 
quite to be overlooked as yet by my 
profession." 

"Ouiteso. Now Mr Stiii-trm vua'11 



come to business," rejoined the ser- 
geant curtly. " I suppose you're a 
judge of handwriting?" 

" I don't understand you," replied 
Sturton in blank amazement. 

" Well, I mean this : in the course 
of your business you must have had 
'a wrong 'un ' given you occasionally." 

Again did the eminent tailor stare 
blankly at his questioner. 

" What I mean is this," said the 
sergeant confidentially, " you've taken 
a cheque or two in your time when 
the drawer's imagination had proved 
too much for him ; when, in fact, he 
had forgotten his own name." 

"Ah, yes," said Mr. Sturton, "that, 
of course, has happened, but you 
know, Mr. Usher, as a rule they are 
rather lucrative things than otherwise ; 
the family always pay to avoid an ex- 
posure, and never object to a pretty 
stiff percentage under the circum- 
stances." 

"Just so," rejoined the sergeant 
quietly, " but to return to my original 
observation, you're a judge of hand- 
writing. What do you think of this?" 
and here Mr. Usher produced the 
famous note that was so nearly burnt 
at the Hopbine. 

It was folded after the mysterious 
manner in which the sergeant invari- 
ably had shown it, so that you could 
see little more than the signature, but 
one glance at it sufficed for Mr. Stur- 
ton. 

" Yes," he said, " I know that hand, 
but I have no intention of telling you 
whose it is." 

Mr. Usher broke into a low laugh 
as he replied, " I don't want you to 
tell me whose handwriting it is, be- 
cause I know, but you will be wanted 
to give a court of law your opinion 
before three weeks are over your 
head, and I can only tell you with 
what I am in a position to prove, it 
would be madness on your part not to 
speak out." 

The collapse of Mr. Sturton was 
quite equal to that of Timothy 
Whipple. He knew well that there 
could be no fencing about his rela- 
tions with Mr. Cudemore in a witness- 
box. The more candid he was, the 
less harm would it do him, but he 
saw to his dismay that the detective 
meant to have him in the witness-box, 



158 



AT FAULT 



and so replied quietly, "Yes, it's 
Cudemore's. I know nothing about 
the note, and you have given me no 
chance of knowing ; but even it you 
did I fancy it is a thing with which I 
had nothing to do." 

"Not you, Mr. Sturton," replied the 
sergeant as he picked up his hat. " I 
know that well enough ; but you'll 
have to testify to that handwriting. 
Good-day, sir, and it's real trouble to 
me to think you could not make a 
genuine Bond Street 'toff' of me." 

Very uncomfortable was Mr. Stur- 
ton after the detective left him. He 
was far too shrewd a man not to 
thoroughly comprehend the whole 
situation. He saw that he should be 
called upon to identify Cudemore's 
writing in court, and quite understood 
how very unpleasant a sharp cross- 
examining barrister might make it for 
him. That he lent money to his 
clients was no particular mystery in a 
select set, carefully as he endeavoured 
to make it so, but he certainly did not 
want that fact advertised in the jour- 
nals. Mr. Sturton d d the Bun- 
bury mystery with no little energy, 
fascinated as he was by it, as soon as 
Sergeant Usher had departed. It 
had never occurred to the great Bond 
Street maestro before that he might 
be actively and disagreeably incul- 
pated in the elucidation of the crime. 

" That little bit of business is 
settled," mused Mr. Usher as he 
wended his way leisurely back to the 
Wellington Restaurant in Spring Gar- 
dens, where he had appointed 
Timothy Whipple to meet him. 

As he expected, Tim was waiting 
for him. 

' " Well," said Mr. Usher, " have you 
got what 1 wanted ?" 

" Yes," said Tim, " I have, and a 
good deal of trouble it's caused me. 
1 had to watch the governor out, and 
then wait for my chance to steal up- 
stairs ; but I've got it, Mr. Usher, and 
here it is." 

" Good, my lad," said the sergeant, 
as he took a capacious pocket-book 
from his breast. " Now," continued 
Mr. Usher, as he dropped the photo- 
graph into one of the pockets and 
extracted a bank-note from another, 
" there's ten pounds for you, and, re- 
member, my young friend, it's not 



many of us can ever knock that out 
of their first murder case." 

"It ought to run to more, Mr. 
Usher, indeed it ought. You know 
you've incited me to steal that photo- 
graph. There's penalties, you know, 
for prompting any one to commit a 
felony." 

The sergeant's face really was a 
study at this retort. He looked Tim 
Whipple over for a moment, and then 
said solemnly — 

" My young friend, your sole chance 
of escaping the gallows is joining 
' the Yard.' If you don't devote your 
talents to hanging your fellow-crea- 
tures, they will some day undoubtedly 
hang you. I told you to, if possible, 
procure a photograph of Mr Cude- 
more. I never authorized your 
stealing it ; and if I did what I ought, 
should take you into custody now on 
that charge. I should know then 
where to lay my hands on you. I 
should save this ten pounds, and, in 
fact, damme, I believe that's the best 
way out it." 

But here Tim Whipple's audacity 
utterly gave way. He burst forth into 
no end of apologies for his presump- 
tion, declared he was perfectly satis- 
fied with his remuneration, that his 
address was always at Mr. Usher's 
disposal, and that if the sergeant 
would at some future time recommend 
him as a candidate for the police 
force or the criminal investigation 
department — his ambition would be 
satisfied. He quite grovelled before 
the great detective, and even offered 
to restore the ten-pound note. 

" Well, my lad," said Mr. Usher at 
last, " I think you've the making of 
an officer of my department in course 
of time. The sooner you get over 
bumptiousness and thinking things 
out for yourself at present the better. 
We don't stand that sort of nonsense 
amongst our subordinates. We do 
the thinking, and merely expect them 
to do what they're told, and any one 
who can do that satisfactorily in our 
line is certain to come to the top of 
the ladder if he's any gumption in 
him at all." 

" Oh, Mr. Usher, if I thought that," 
exclaimed Tim. 

" Beware of bumptiousness," re- 
joined the sergeant solemnly, " and 



LAST LINKS 



159 



it's possible you may escape the gal- 
lows yet. Now, my lad, hook it — I've 
done with you." 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

LAST LINKS 

Once more did Mr. Usher take train 
tor Baumborough — the riddle was 
solved, the whole story of the Bun- 
bury mystery was clear as noonday 
to him, with one exception. What 
had been Cudemore's motive? Why 
had he killed John Fossdyke? and 
about that, rack his brains as he 
might, the sergeant was compelled to 
confess himself beaten. He had no 
doubt whatever about Cudemore's 
guilt ; he had no doubt whatever 
about proving it in a court of justice ; 
still, just as a great artist insists upon 
either having back, or detaining, a 
picture for a few final touches, so did 
Mr. Usher want to complete two or 
three trifling links before arresting 
Cudemore. 

The first person the sergeant de- 
sired to see in Baumborough was Mr. 
Totterdell, and no sooner had he 
deposited his modest luggage in the 
hotel he affected than he started off 
to that gentleman's residence. Mr. 
Totterdell had gradually taught him- 
self to believe the Bunbury mystery 
could only be elucidated by himself ; 
that the police " were born fools, sir," 
he expressed to every one unguarded 
enough to listen to him ; and if that 
idiot of a coroner, and still bigger 
imbecile, Mr. Trail, had only listened 
to his evidence that the murderer 
would have been arrested was a fixed 
fact in the Totterdell brain, and fixed 
facts in the Totterdell brain were apt 
to become just a little hard upon 
other people, especially those of an 
irresolute turn of mind, who had not 
nerve to risk the loss of a lapel sooner 
than submit to button-holing. 

Still Mr. Totterdell was conscious 
of having been somewhat snubbed 
by Mr. Usher at their last interview, 
and with all his contemptuous opinion 
of the police in the abstract, had a 
dim idea that the sergeant in parti- 



cular was a little awkward to put 
down ; while, on the other hand, his 
curiosity was insatiable, and therefore 
when Mr. Usher's card was put into 
his hand he gave prompt directions 
for his admittance. The sergeant, 
after his wont, trod close on the heels 
of his name, and the fussy Town 
Councillor received him with no little 
effusion. 

" Ha, Mr. Usher," he exclaimed, 
rubbing his hands, " so you're come 
back to me again, eh? No getting 
at the bottom of this complication 
without my assistance, eh ? Well, sir, 
what is it now ? if I'd been listened 
to earlier the whole affair would have 
been cleared up long before this." 

" I'm beginning to be of that way 
of thinking myself, sir," replied the 
detective. " I'll take a chair with 
your permission, and then, perhaps, 
you'd answer me a question or two." 

"Sit down, sit down, by all means," 
replied Mr. Totterdell with pompous 
patronage. " I'll help you all I can, 
my good fellow ; anything, you know, 
to forward the ends of justice." 

" Quite so," replied the sergeant. 
" I know I can rely upon you. Now, 
Mr. Totterdell, you couldn't possibly 
be mistaken about the identity of the 
man who sat next you at the opening 
of the Baumborough Theatre, I pre- 
sume ?" 

" What, James Foxborough ? Cer- 
tainly not ; I'd swear to him any- 
where." 

" Just so ; you never saw him 
before, and, like everybody else, 
apparently have never seen him 
since." 

" No, I never saw him except on 
that occasion," rejoined he ; " but I 
tell you what, Mr. Usher " 

" Half a minute, sir," rejoined the 
detective, as he took the stout pocket- 
book from his breast ; " half a minute, 
if you please," and producing a photo- 
graphic carte, he handed it to Mr. 
Totterdell, and said abruptly, "Is 
that him?" 

The old gentleman glared at it for 
a minute, and then exclaimed, " Good 
God, no ! Why, that's poor Fossdyke, 
any one could recognise him ! " 

" Dear me, dear me," said Mr. 
Usher, "how stupid I am, I've given 
you the wrong carte ! Excuse me, 



l6o 



AT FAULT 



sir, but this is the one I want you to 
look at," and as he spoke the sergeant 
exchanged the photograph for that of 
Mr. Cudemore. 

" That's him, that's him, Mr. Usher," 
cried Mr. Totterdell ; " that's the 
scoundrel who sat next me in the 
stalls ; that's James Foxborough. 
It's an awful thing, sergeant, so to 
speak, to think you've nobbed and 
nobbed with a murderer." 

" Well, I don't know about the 
hoobing and nobbing," rejoined the 
detective, " but, you see, I've had 
intimate relations with so many in 
my time that it don't strike me that 
way. They're, as a rule, inoffensive 
creatures, and one rather wonders how 
they came to do it." 

" Well, Mr. Usher, this was a nice, 
civil-spoken gentleman — the last per- 
son in the world you'd have suspected 
of any, any sad, any " 

" Sad games," rejoined the sergeant 
curtly. " Bless you, sir, they usually 
are. The worst of 'em generally goes 
to church pretty regular, and you 
wouldn't think would wring the neck 
of a sparrow, much less, as one I 
made professional acquaintance with, 
polish off a whole family." 

"Dear me," rejoined Mr. Totterdell 
with both eyes and mouth wide open, 
" you don't say so ! Now, Mr. Usher, 
I really should like to hear the parti- 
culars of that case." 

" Well, sir, one of these days, if 
you'll give me a dish of tea, I'll be 
proud to tell you the story, but just 
now I really am pressed for time. 
We can't afford to let this fellow slip 
through our fingers, eh, Mr. Totter- 
dell?" said the sergeant as he gently 
withdrew the photograph from the 
old gentleman's fingers. 

" Certainly not ; and you know 
where to lay your hand on him, 
sergeant ? " 

" Undoubtedly, and you shall be 
face to face with him before many 
days are over. Yes, sir, I'm going 
to hang your friend of the theatre, 
and you may take Silas Usher's word 
for it. I don't make many mistakes, 
and this is about as lovely a case as 
ever I worked out." 

"All right, sergeant, if you'll just 
ring the bell they'll bring you some 
tea, and then if you'll just tell me the 



story as far as you've got It worked 
out, why I'll give you my advice about 
it," rejoined Mr. Totterdell, his face 
all aglow, and his inquisitive old eyes 
positively glistening with excitement. 

" That's just it," replied Mr. Usher, 
rising. " You're the very man I want 
to talk the whole thing over with ; 
but time, Mr. Totterdell, don't admit 
of my doing it just now. There are 
telegrams to send off, sir, orders to 
despatch, other people to see, so I'll 
bid you good-day, sir, for the present. 
Once more thanking you for your 
valuable assistance," continued the 
sergeant as he brushed his hat with 
his coat-sleeve, " allow me to wish 
you good-day." 

" They can't get a step without me 
in the business," murmured Mr. 
Totterdell with a complacent smile, 
as Mr. Usher's footsteps died away 
in the distance. " When it comes to 
a question of law, — ha, ha, — I fancy 
they've nobody quite so good on the 
Bench. Usher sees it at once. Good 
man, Usher. This case will probably 
make him, and who's worked out this 
business for him? — why, me." And 
then Mr. Totterdell threw himself 
back in his chair, and indulged in 
ecstatic slumber. 

" Darned old fool," muttered the 
candid detective as he walked 
leisurely away from Mr. Totterdell's 
residence. "Still, I've got the one 
fact out of him I wanted. Cudemore 
was the man at the Baumborough 
Theatre. Well, I fancy Cudemore is 
one of those this world must suffer by 
the loss of. The next thing is just to 
show old Marlinson and one or two of 
the Hopbine people the photograph, 
and then the case is just as complete 
as ever I turned one out. But the 
motive. Why did Cudemore kill 
Fossdyke? why did he think of it? 
I'm dead beat about that ; if he meant 
going in for money and bleeding him, 
it was the last thing he'd have done. 
Wringing the neck of the goose that 
lays the golden eggs is not done in 
practical life, whatever may take place 
in fable ; especially philosophers like 
Cudemore, who make their living out 
of the weaknesses of their fellow- 
creatures, don't fall into such mis- 
takes. Cudemore has owned too 
many geese of this kind in his time 



LAST LINKS 



161 



to do anything so foolish as that. 
Well, we shall perhaps have it out 
of him at the trial ; and, moreover, a 
man goes to the gallows for con- 
clusively proved murder, even if the 
why of it is never made clear. Some 
of the most remarkable on record 
have never been cyphered out in that 
respect." 

The next day saw Mr. Usher 
lounging leisurely into the Hopbine 
at Bunbury, to the extreme horror of 
old Joe Marlinson, who, by his surly 
greeting, quite gave the sergeant to 
understand that he had no desire for 
his patronage. 

" I'm glad to see, my old friend," 
said Mr. Usher easily, " that you've 
not forgotten me. As for me, you 
know, I never forget anybody." 

" If you could make an exception in 
my case," rejoined the landlord of the 
Hopbine, "I'd take it as a favour ; I 
don't want any more murders or 
inquests committed in this house." 

" No, my man, and you don't want 
to appear in a witness-box, no doubt," 
observed the sergeant jocularly. 

" It's a scandalous thing at my time 
of life, if I'm dragged into court to 
be worried about an affair I know 
nothing about. Do you suppose I 
keep a throat-cutting hotel ? Do you 
suppose murder and robbery is 
licensed on these premises ? I ain't 
going to have it, nor inquests either 
— no, nor detectives loafing about my 
place." 

" Now, look here, Mr. Marlinson," 
rejoined the sergeant ; "it's not a bit 
of use your getting shirty over the 
matter. The murder was committed 
in your house, and if you J:dn't 
actually do it, I'm not quite so clear 
you didn't have a hand in it. Just 
you pay attention to what I've got to 
say to you, or you'll find yourself in 
the dock instead of the witness-box." 

Mr. Marlinson's face was simply a 
comic study for the moment, then he 
went deliberately to a cupboard, from 
which he produced a couple of glasses, 
and taking a greenish bottle from the 
liqueur-rack of the bar-parlour, solemn- 
ly filled them. 

Mr. Usher was quite equal to the 
occasion ; although an abstemious 
rr »n. he tossed off the Chartreuse or 
Kiimmell proposed to him. ^nd then 



said, " Now, Mr. Marlinson, you'd 
know this Foxborough again if you 
saw him ; could swear to him any- 
where, I suppose?" 

''I should think I could, and I should 
rather think I would," replied Mr. 
Marlinson excitedly, to which no 
doubt considerable absorption of 

liquors contributed. " D n him, 

what's he mean by coming to a 
respectable hotel to commit his 
murders, when there's any amount 
of hedge ale-houses about the country 
that seem special for him ? I don't 
want no more inquests here, Mr. 
Usher. I don't want to have any- 
thing more to do with the business ; 
but I don't mind swearing to a 
scoundrel who's brought disgrace 
upon the Hopbine. Hanging he 
deserves, and hanging I trust he'll 
get, dash me." 

" Quite so," replied the sergeant 
quietly ; " now look here," and some- 
what to Mr. Marlinson's dismay the 
detective produced that fat leather 
pocket-book, which might almost have 
been called "his familiar." It was 
the black poodle of Faust. 

"You see this photograph," con- 
tinued Mr. Usher as he produce 
from its depths Mr. Cudemore's carte 
" Who is it ? " 

"That's him— that's the villain 

who has caused all this trouble. I 
could swear to him anywhere." 

" We shan't trouble you to do that ; 
if you'll swear to him in a court of 
justice it's about as much as we shall 
ask you to do. But now, I just want 
Eliza Salter and Thomas Jenkinson, 
the waiter— a mere matter of form, 
Mr. Marlinson, but when people out- 
rage respectable hotels, houses with a 
county and crusted port reputation, 
they must be punished, Mr. Marlin- 
son, eh ?" 

" They must be thinned, sir, that's 
what it is. Have another glass, Mr. 
Usher, it's mild as mother's milk, this 
Chartreuse, and comforting under 
affliction," and as he spoke Joe 
Marlinson poured out a couple more 
glasses of the insinuating compound. 
" We can't have such vipers about, 
sir, they must be scotched. I don't 
quite know what that means, but I 
bcl.cve it's 7 term applicable to 
vintrs." 



l62 



AT FAULT 



" Well, just send for the waiter and 
chambermaid, my friend, you may 
rely upon it that this particular viper 
won't come across your path any 
more." 

" I hope not, Mr. Usher ; it's upset 
me altogether. For all I know, I've 
been harbouring and entertaining 
murderers for years. Here's a gentle- 
man comes here with all a gentle- 
man's manners, and shows a taste in 
wines and cookery that stamps him 
as a member of the upper circles, and 
then he just in the middle of the 
night sticks a fellow-creature as if he 
were a pork-butcher. I give it all up, 
sir. I never believed the aristocracy 
were up to such rigs as this, and now 
they tell me there was a French duke 
took to it only a score or so of years 
back." 

" Don't you trouble, Mr. Marlinson, 
and take my advice and be a little 
careful of your fine Chartreuse. Good 
tipple, but demoralizing. Now run in 
for Salter and Jenkinson, for I've no 
time to spare, and must catch the 
next train to Baumborough." 

Thus advised, the landlord of the 
Hopbine speedily summoned those 
servitors, and Mr. Usher exhibited 
the carte of Cudemore for their 
delectation. Neither had the slightest 
doubt about it. Yes, that was No. 1 1 ; 
Mr. Foxborough, as they knew him to 
be afterwards. The photograph was 
an excellent one, and they could 
swear to him anywhere Was there 
any chance or immediate prospect of 
apprehension ? 

" You needn't fret yourselves about 
that. I, Sergeant Usher, tell you that 
I know exactly where to find James 
Foxborough when I want him, and 
that there's never a man in England 
less likely to change his abode. That 
you will be all able to recognise 
Foxborough when you see him in the 
dock is all I want. And now just tell 
Bill Gibbons I'll run down in the 
'bus." 

That stolid, open-mouthed admira- 
tion characteristic of country folks 
was visible upon the faces of the 
whole Hopbine establishment, from 
the landlord to the boots, as the great 
detective took his departure. 

Arrived at Baumboiough, Mr. Usher 
made his way straight to Dr. Ingle- 



by's, and was at once admitted. He 
found the doctor alone. 

" Sit down, Usher, and have a glass 
of port," remarked the medico. " Am 
I to have the story of the Bunburj 
mystery to-night ? " 

" Well, sir," said the sergeant as he 
filled his glass, " to tell you the truth, 
that's just what I came to do ; but I 
should like both Mr. Soames and 
Mr. Morant to be present when I 
relate it." 

"Ha! a little unlucky. I'm not 
going to make any mystery to a man 
so completely behind the scenes as 
yourself, but Herbert Morant took 
Miss Hyde up to London to-day to 
introduce her to her half-sister. The 
girl was mad about it ; and young 
Morant, well, I suppose, he was pretty 
keen too to get a look at his sweet- 
heart." 

" Yes, sir, yes," said the sergeant 
with a low chuckle, " that's human 
nature, about one of the few cards 
you can depend upon being played 
straight in the world. But I'll tell 
you what it is, I'll put off telling the 
story of Mr. Fossdyke's death till they 
come back if you'll allow me. The 
story is all plain as noonday, but I 
want to tell it before Mr. Soames, 
Mr. Morant, and Miss Hyde. I'm 
beat about the motive, and I've a 
strong idea that either Mr. Morant or 
Miss Hyde might give me the clue to 
it. As for who killed John Fossdyke, 
he'll be in custody to-morrow, and 
to prove the case is as simple as 
possible ; but why he did it I'm beat 
about still. Good-night, doctor ; no- 
body keeps such port as you, but fine 
Chartreuse at the Hopbine in the 
afternoon is not the best foundation 
for it," and with this profoundly 
philosophical remark the sergeant 
vanished. 



CHAPTER XXXV 

MRS. FOXBOROUGH'S CONFESSION 

That Miss Hyde should be anxious 
to make the acquaintance of the 



MRS. FOXBO ROUGH'S CONFESSION 



16^ 



mother she hardly knew, and of the 
half-sister she had never seen, was 
only natural ; but her feelings had 
been so aroused by the enthusiastic 
manner in which Morant spoke of 
them that her desire to do so had be- 
come feverish. Herbert spoke of Mrs. 
Foxborough as one of the noblest, 
greatest-hearted women it had ever 
been his lot to know ; and it is not 
every day that sons-in-law elect show 
such passionate admiration for the 
mothers of their sweethearts. That 
he should rave about Nid was only 
natural ; if a man of Herbert's age 
don't express himself in somewhat 
extravagant fashion regarding the girl 
he is about to marry, he must be 
either of a very phlegmatic tempera- 
ment, or very mildly in love, and of 
those failings nobody could possibly 
accuse Mr. Morant. 

Phil Soames too could not resist 
feeling some curiosity to see people to 
whom he was likely to be allied so 
nearly as Mrs. Foxborough and her 
daughter, and it took very little per- 
suasion on Bessie's part to induce him 
to agree to run up with her and 
Herbert to London, and be presented 
at Tapton Cottage. 

" You must come, Phil dear. You 
know what Herbert is. When he 
once gets beside Nid, I shall never 
see him again, and be left to take 
care of myself; and though Herbert 
in his reckless way declares that 
mamma will be delighted to see 
me, I don't feel quite sure about how 
she will brook my intrusion on her 
home.' She has always been charm- 
ing and tender upon the rare occa- 
sions on which she has come to see 
me, but ae has never hinted that I 
should come and see her" — a speech 
that shows Mr. Morant and Miss 
Hyde had speedily arrived at terms of 
easy confidence. 

" What reasons there might have 
been, Bessie, for Mrs. Foxborough 
handing you over to the care of your 
aunt I can't guess ; but I think no 
mother is likely not to be proud to 
own you as a daughter now." 

"Oh, Phil, Phil," cried Bessie, 
laughing, "to think of your giving 
utterance to such shameful flattery ! " 

" I don't know that there's much 
flattery about it, darling," replied the 



young man as he wound his arm 
round her waist. " If after a hard 
struggle one gains the prize one's set 
one's heart on, I think one's justified in 
being just a wee bit proud of the 
prize." 

" How you do spoil me, and how 
was I ever so mad as not to tell you 
my story at once?" replied Bessie as 
she dropped her head on his breast 
with the inevitable result. " But 
you'll come to town with Herbert and 
me to-morrow, that's understood ? " 

" You don't suppose I'd give a 
chance, child, for any other fellow to 
run away with my property ?" and 
then came some further assertion of his 
being the rightful owner of " the pro- 
perty," scarcely interesting to readers 
or lookers-on. 

And so the very morning that 
Usher, the ubiquitous, was upsetting 
Mr. Martinson's equilibrium at the 
Hopbine, Phil Soames, Morant, and 
Miss Hyde took the train for London. 
They were not, however, destined 
to depart altogether unchallenged. 
Mr. Totterdell, in his thirst for in- 
formation concerning the doings 
of everybody and everything, was 
on the platform buying news- 
papers. He was a great frequenter of 
the station. He liked to know who 
came to, and who departed from 
Baumborough ; and the why an<i 
the where of their journey was a 
special object of interest to the old 
gentleman. The sight of Phil Soames 
and his friend, Herbert Morant, with 
Miss Hyde, all evidently awaiting the 
London train, was like the trumpet (o 
the war-horse. 

" Going to London, Mr. Soames ? " 
exclaimed Mr. Totterdell as he sidled 
up to them. ' " Can hardly be plea- 
sure, I suppose, while this terrible 
mystery, in which we are all so inter- 
ested, remains unsettled ? " 

"Yes, I'm going to London," re- 
joined Philip drily. 

" Got a bit of shopping to do, eh 
Miss Hyde?" 

"A lady always has that, Mr. Tot- 
terdell ; but I'm not going to London 
for that purpose." 

" On business of importance, 
eh?" 

"Just so," rejoined Herbert Morant, 
cutting into the conversation. "We 



164 



AT FAULT 



are all going up to see the panto- 
mimes." 

"Pantomimes, my dear young 
friend," said Mr. Totterdell ; " why, 
bless you, they don't commence for 
another six weeks." 

" No," rejoined Morant serenely, 
" but there's nothing like being in time 
to get a good seat. Never, Mr. Tot- 
terdell, neglect that golden advice on 
the playbills, 'Come early.'" 

Here Phil Soames and Bessie could 
control their laughter no longer ; but 
just then the London train fortunately 
glided into the station, and they 
jumped hastily into a first-class car- 
riage, leaving Mr. Totterdell jabber- 
ing impotently in his wrath. 

Arrived in town, they drove straight 
to Tapton Cottage, and, as pre- 
arranged, Morant jumped out and 
knocked, leaving his companions in 
the cab. Bessie was fearfully nervous. 
She feared how the scarcely-known 
mother might take this unauthorized 
intrusion ; and, poor girl, she so 
yearned for some near relations she 
could love. The bitter experience of 
her puritanical aunt and waspish 
cousins had left sad memories in her 
mind ; and though Phil Soames had 
in great measure succeeded in obliter- 
ating them, still Bessie craved for the 
love of that handsome mother she had 
so seldom seen. 

" Do you think she's very angry at 
my coming, Phil ? " she whispered as 
she stole her hand into her lover's. 

" Nonsense, child ! " he replied as 
he pressed it. " Don't be foolish. 
Morant must be given a few minutes 
to explain matters." 

Suddenly the door opened, and a 
tall, handsome woman, with a wealth 
of chestnut hair crowning her head, 
rushed down the steps, and exclaimed 
as she impetuously wrenched open 
the cab-door — 

" Bessie, my darling, where are 
you ? Come in at once, dearest, and 
you too, Mr. Soames, for of course 
you are Mr. Soames. To think, child, 
that your mother would not be glad 
to see you in your own home. Oh, 
my darling, I've a long story to 
whisper into your ears when I get you 
inside." 

When they entered the drawing- 
room, Nid was standing, her lace .ill 



aglow with excitement, waiting to 
welcome her new sister. For a 
second or two she regarded her shyly ; 
then the girl's impulsive nature as- 
serted itself, and without more ado 
she made a rush at Bessie, threw her 
arms round her neck, and kissed her 
passionately. 

"There, that will do, Nid," said 
Mrs. Foxborough in a low voice as 
she gently separated the two girls. 
" Take her into the library, Herbert, 
and let her there make acquain- 
tance with her brother-in-law that is 
to be. You will forgive me, Mr. 
Soames, but I have a full confession 
to make to my daughter, and I am 
sure," she continued, addressing her- 
self to him as her voice sank almost 
to a whisper, " you do not wish to 
make the story of a woman's weakness 
harder for her to tell than necessary." 

" I assure you, Mrs. Foxborough 
" interposed Phil. 

" No," she continued, still speaking 
to him, and recognising instinctively 
that he was the master spirit of the 
party, " I know you don't, and lower- 
ing her head as few people had ever 
chanced to see the proud Nydia 
Willoughby do before ; " but Bessie 
must learn the truth from my lips at 
last. You and she, I dare say, know 
the outline of it already. Spare me 
its being further bruited abroad." 

She presented so sad a sight in this 
her hour of humiliation, and the low 
tremulous tones vibrated so painfully 
on the heartstrings of her hearers, 
that the two girls burst into tears, 
while Mrs. Foxborough stood silent 
and abased. Phil Soames, however, 
rose promptly to the occasion. 

" Kiss and comfort her, Bessie ; go 
to her, child," and he placed the weep- 
ing girl in her mother's arms, and 
raising Mrs. Foxborough's hand to 
his lips, kissed it. " Take Nydia 
to the library ; I will follow you and 
try to make my sister-in-law's aquain- 
tance." 

For a second Nid hesitated to give 
way to Morant's light grasp upon her 
arm, then she mutely clasped Phil's 
hand, and yielding to her lover's 
gentle compulsion, drew him after her 
as they left the room. 

"Oh, Bessie darling," exclaimed 
Mrs. Foxborough as she wound her 



MRS. FOXBOROUGH'S CONFESSION 



165 



arm about her daughter. "It is a 
terrible story for a mother to have to 
tell, how she ever came to desert a 
child like yourself, but there are really 
extenuating circumstances — that is, if 
anything can excuse a woman so 
doing. Listen, child, to a very com- 
monplace story. Your grandfather 
was * Presbyterian minister at Ply- 
mouth, and we — that is, myself and 
your ewnt — were brought up after the 
fashion of girls in a very serious family. 
Therr were only us two, and Augusta 
cheerrully conformed with the views 
of our parents. It may have been the 
romapuc name which my mother, 
with - The Last Days of Pompeii ' 
still seething in her mind, insisted 
upon Sestowing on me ; but from the 
very fcrst I rebelled against the solem- 
nity ol our home. While your grand- 
mother lived it was somewhat miti- 
gated, but after her death your grand- 
fathei and my sister, who was some 
five years my senior, seemed to think 
even laughter a crime. Novel-read- 
ing, theatre-going, and all the inno- 
cent amusements that a girl most 
delights in, were in my case sternly 
repressed. Can you wonder that I 
fell into a state of chronic and sullen 
revolt against the gloomy existence I 
was condemned to lead ? As long as 
my sister remained at home, despite 
my having no scruples about indulg- 
ing in any of the forbidden pleasures 
whenever I could get a chance, my 
opportunities were few. A woman is 
not easily blinded by another woman, 
and Augusta was not easy to deceive ; 
but when she one day married the son 
of a prominent member of our congre- 
gation and went away to her new 
home in London, it became compara- 
tively easy. The bribing the two 
maids that comprised our modest 
household was hardly necessary, 
their sympathies were entirely with 
me ; they agreed that Miss Nydia 
ought to see a little more life and 
have a little more amusement. 
Novels I obtained now as many as I 
liked, and I may say lived in the 
fairy-land of fiction, while now and 
again I enjoyed the stolen delight of 
a visit to the theatre in company 
with Ruth, our parlour-maid." 

" Poor mother," murmured Bessie. 
"No one, as you know, could un- 



derstand your dreary life better than 
I." 

Mrs. Foxborough, who was seated 
in a low chair, fondled the head of the 
girl who was crouched at her feet. 

"Then, Bessie sweet, came my 
agony. I met there upon one occa- 
sion a very good-looking young man, 
who was excessively civil about get- 
ting us a cab. It was a wet night, 
and cabs were somewhat scarce. I 
soon found that he was the jeune 
premier of the company, but not being 
wanted in the last piece had strolled 
round in front. I was only seventeen, 
Bessie, and we met and met again. 
To a romantic fool as I was then an 
actor was a species of demi-god. I 
fell violently in what I thought was 
love, and when the company left Ply- 
mouth was easily persuaded to elope 
with him. A little more than a year 
afterwards I found myself a mother, 
and deserted, with the additional 
agony of discovering that my betrayer 
was already a married man. What 
was I to do ? Thanks to my soi- 
disant husband, I had already got a 
footing on the stage, but how to carry 
you about with me and take care of 
you I knew not. My salary, I need 
scarcely say, was scanty, while in the 
matter of new parts country managers 
are simply merciless, and one has to 
play almost any role at forty-eight 
hours' notice. What with study and 
rehearsal I could simply take no ade- 
quate care of you. Go back to my 
father's house 1 couldn't — I really had 
not the courage to undergo the humi- 
liation that awaited me there even if 
he would receive me, which was not 
exactly certain. At last I bethought 
me of your aunt. I took you there, 
and bore meekly the reproaches that 
were showered upon me, and then, 
Bessie, I assented to the cruel terms 
proposed to me — that I was to give 
you solely over to her ; that it was her 
duty, if possible, to snatch a brand 
from the burning, and her duty she 
would do ; but that she must make it 
a positive condition that I saw you 
but rarely, and never attempted to 
remove you from under her care 
even for a day. What cruel justice 
Augusta dealt out to me at that time 
I forgive her for your sake, but I can 
never forget it. She did her duty by 



166 



AT FAULT 



you honestly according to her own 
narrow lights, and I, God help me, 
did not." 

Here Mrs. Foxborough ceased, and 
in a second Bessie's arms were wound 
round her neck, and the girl was 
seated in her lap. 

"Oh, mother," she whispered, "what 
a hard life you must have had ! " 

" No, I don't know that it was 
harder than is the lot of most of us, 
except the having to part with you. 
Soon afterwards I got a lucrative 
opening in the music-hall line, and 
there I have continued ever since. It 
was at that time I met poor James, 
and we were married, but I told him 
about you before I became his wife. 
He didn't get on well on the stage, 
and was too proud to live upon me, 
so we agreed to separate for a little. 
Fond as he was of me, and though 
he would have lavished money on 
me if I would have let him after he 
began to make it, he was always 
strangely reticent about his business. 
He did well whatever it was, and 
bought and rebuilt the Syringa en- 
tirely for me. He called his busi- 
ness, Bessie, the managing of country 
theatrical companies. I always af- 
fected to believe it, but I very much 
doubt whether that was what it was 
really. But he's been a good and 
dear husband to me, child, and had 
nothing to say to this murder I'd 
stake my life, though I've a pre- 
sentiment I shall never see him 
again. And now about yourself, child 
— do you love this bonnie wooer of 
yours ?" 

" With all my soul, mother. You 
can't think how kind, courteous, and 
considerate he is, and he must care a 
good deal about me, or he'd never 
take such a penniless child as me to 
keep." * 

" Oh, darling ! " replied Mrs. Fox- 
borough as she toyed a little ner- 
vously though fondly with the girl's 
hair, " there are plenty of men about 
who would gladly take you with just 
the gown on your back. May you be 
happy, child ! and now we'll go and 
call back the others. I have hardly 
seen this tall sweetheart of yours." 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

MR. CUDEMORE GETS UNEASY 

Mr. Cudemore was getting some- 
what uneasy in his mind. He did 
not at all like Mr. Sturton having put 
himself in communication with the 
police relative to the large sum of 
money that James Foxborough had 
borrowed. He would have liked it 
still less had he known of Mr. 
Usher's visit to Bond Street, but of 
that he was in ignorance. He had 
called once or twice to see Mr. 
Sturton lately, only to be told he 
was not in. This in itself disturbed 
the suspicious money lender. He 
had never found any difficulty about 
seeing the fashionable artist before, 
why should he now? The truth was, 
Mr. Sturton kept purposely out of the 
way. Although Mr. Usher, after his 
wont, had kept his own counsel pretty 
close, yet he had made no secret 
that Mr. Sturton would be called 
upon to testify to that handwriting, 
and, further, it was clear to the lat- 
ter that the sergeant attached great 
importance to that note. Mr. Sturton 
had always followed the Bunbury 
murder with morbid interest, and 
he had arrived vaguely at the con- 
clusion that Cudemore was somehow 
implicated in the crime. He could 
be cool enough on all matters of 
business, but he had no nerves for 
horrors, and the Bunbury mystery, 
which had absorbed him from the 
first, now kept him in a state of 
nervous irritability. 

Mr. Cudemore was very dissatisfied 
with the progress of his love-suit. 
His chance had not looked a particu- 
larly rosy one before he lost his head 
that afternoon in Tapton Cottage, and 
now he knew that nothing but coer- 
cion remained to bring it to a suc- 
cessful termination. Not that Mr 
Cudemore would have cared about 
that, had it only promised a favour- 
able result, but it did not. He inter- 
fered more and more in the affairs of 
the Syringa ; he insisted upon it that 
he must sec the manageress on matters 
of business. Mrs. Foxborough steadily 
refused to take the slightest notice of 
him. In spite of her prohibition he 
had again called at the cottage ; the 
door remained closed in his face. 



AfR. CUDEMORB GETS UNEASY 



167 



He had written to apologize for his 
conduct, but no reply was vouchsafed 
him. He had written once more, 
pointing out that if the six thousand 
pounds borrowed by James Fox- 
borough's was not forthcoming at the 
expiration of the notice given the mort- 
gagees would foreclose, and the Syringa 
Music Hall go altogether out of Mrs. 
Foxborou-h's hands, and Mrs. Fox- 
borough again was perfectly indifferent, 
and abstained from answering his letter. 
Then the money-lender had pushed 
persecution as far as he knew how, and 
was fain to admit with no result. 

He was infatuated with his mad 
passion for the girl, and it to a certain 
extent lulled to rest that shrewd 
instinct of coming danger now newly 
awakened. In the days before he 
had avowed his admiration he had 
begged a photograph from Nid, and 
she, who was turning over a lot of 
freshly-executed sun likenesses of her- 
self, gave him one without hesitation. 
Musing one afternoon in his rooms 
over his mad desire to make Nid his 
wife, he suddenly bethought him, as 
he could not see the girl herself, he 
would look at her picture. He fetched 
his photograph book from a side- 
table and turned over the leaves till 
he came to her likeness, and then he 
was struck with something else — 
the opposite carte had been removed. 
He knew perfectly well whose it was. 
It was his own. He had placed it 
there as men will at times in order to 
see themselves coupled with the object 
of their idolatry. Who had taken it ? 
and why? The division from which 
it had been abstracted was slightly torn, 
as if it had been removed with some 
haste, and once more a feeling of un- 
easiness came over the man. He had 
no intimate friends likely to commit 
such petty larceny, in fact, friends were 
a luxury Mr. Cudemore professed him- 
self unable to afford. He was a great 
admirer of the fair sex, but his liaisons 
were transient and of that meretricious 
order that involves no great amount 
of sentiment on either side. 

He lit a* big cigar and sat there for 
an hour brooding over various little 
suspicious circumstances, all tending 
to confirm his views that Scotland 
Yard had come to suspect him of 
being concerned in the Bunbury mys- 



tery. What was young Whipple do- 
in- in his dressing-room ? why did Mr. 
Sturton persistently avoid him? and, 
lastly, with what object had some one 
abstracted this photograph ? He 
wondered if he was under surveillance, 
whether he was watched as he knew 
the police could watch a man upon 
occasion. Then he thought it would 
be as well to realize some securities, 
so as to have a good bit of ready 
money always at hand in case it might 
seem good policy to abscond. Bah ! 
he was losing his nerve. Let them 
suspect, he was in no danger ; it was 
little likely they would ever penetrate 
the mysterious disappearance ot 
James Foxborough, and until they 
did that he was safe. No, while there 
was a chance of securing Nid Fox- 
borough for his wife he would stay, 
happen what might, and then he actu- 
ally began to muse over impossible 
schemes for her abduction. His fierce 
lustful passion for the girl — love it 
cannot be called — was of that kind 
that led to savage outrages of such 
sort in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, but is fortunately not quite 
so feasible in the days we live in. 
Did he but know it, Mr. Cudemore 
was as well policed as the Prime 
Minister or the Lord-Lieutenant of 
Ireland. 

Still the more he reflected the less 
he liked the aspect of affairs. He 
looked at the clock ; yes, with a good 
hansom there was just time to catch 
his broker and give him instructions 
to sell Guatemala bonds sufficient to 
realize a thousand. He would do it. 
" I shall want money for either tour," 
he muttered grimly, " whether it be a 
wedding one or the other." 

On the track of his hansom stole 
another tenanted by a wizened little 
old man dressed something like an 
old-fashioned bank clerk, but one ot 
the deadliest beagles in all the detective 
pack. He was not a man of anything 
like Mr. Usher's calibre, he was not 
good at finding his game ; but once 
shown his quarry, and he hung 
upon the track like a sleuth-hound. 
Old Nibs, as he was affectionately 
termed by his brethren of the Yard, 
was a very valuable officer in his own 
line ; a very difficult man to slip when 
he had once sighted his prey. 



168 



AT FAULT 



Mr. Cudemore arrived in time, and 
a little surprised his broker. Guate- 
malas were now going up and promised 
to be an uncommon good thing ere the 
month was out. Did not Mr. Cude- 
mote think it would be advisable to 
hold on a week or two, or, if he must 
have money, realize some other pro- 
perty ? No, Mr. Cudemore didn't think 
so. His orders were peremptory to sell 
Guatemalas to realize a thousand the 
next day, and that done he drove off 
and recreated himself at the Gaiety 
Restaurant, and went into the theatre 
afterwards; but let him go where he 
would, that little wizened old bank 
clerk followed him like his shadow 
till he finally reached his home in 
Spring Gardens, and there another 
member of the force was ready to take 
up the watch. 

Mr. Cudemore slept the sleep of the 
just. Whatever his connection with 
the Bunbury mystery might be, it 
affected him no more than it might 
make it advisable for him to leave 
town, and this, in consequence of his 
wild infatuation about NidFoxborough, 
he did not wish to do. The money- 
lender thought that he could 
easily baffle the police whenever he 
should deem it necessary, and though 
he had pictured himself watched, had 
little idea that such watch had actually 
commenced. He thought he might to 
some extent have fallen under their 
suspicion, but he deemed they 
had barely got hold of the clue as 
yet, much less unravelled it. Uneasy 
he was, he felt there was danger in 
the air ; but he'd no idea he was al- 
ready completely in the toils, that the 
indefatigable Usher had his, Mr. 
Cudemore's, photograph multiplied, 
and that there was not a leading 
police station in England without both 
that and a complete description of 
him, more especially all the principal 
seaports, so that even should he evade 
the vigilance of " the Yard " he was 
not likely to get very far. 

The next morning Mr. Cudemore, 
having had his breakfast, betook him- 
self to the Syringa Music Hall, where 
he, as was his habit, harassed the 
stage-manager with business inquiries 
and demanded to see Mrs. Fox- 
borough. 

" She's here, I know," said the 



money-lender, " for I saw her broug. 

ham waiting in the street." 

" I've Mrs. Foxborough's express 
commands to say she will never see 
you, that she doubts whether you 
really have any right to interfere with 
us at all until your time comes. I don't 
quite know what she means by that, 
but I give you her message as I have 
given it you before." 

But Mr. Cudemore was determined 
to see Mrs. Foxborough this time, and 
he lingered in the entrance until she 
came out, and then, taking off his hat, 
boldly requested to speak to her on 
business. 

The manageress of the Syringa drew 
herself up proudly and passed on to- 
wards her carriage without a word or 
hardly even a glance at him, and Mr. 
Cudemore fell back discomfited as 
the stage-manager put her into the 
brougham. He was verily not doing 
much with this game of persecution, and 
Mr. Cudemore walked moodily away. 
" She must have a good bit more than I 
thought," he muttered, "or she'd never 
take the prospect of the loss of the 
Syringa so lightly ; and yet I thought 
Foxborough had pretty well all he had 
sunk in it ; but of course I know now 
he had other resources." 

Now it so happened that the very 
morning upon which Mr. Cudemore 
made the last attempt to intimidate 
Mrs. Foxborough was the day upon 
which the party from Baumborough, 
under Morant's guidance, arrived at 
Tapton Cottage. If Mrs. Foxborough 
kept a brave presence before the 
money-lender, she was in reality con- 
siderably dismayed at the loss of the 
Syringa. Her husband might have 
other property, but she knew nothing 
about it, and it was the Syringa that 
kept Tapton Cottage going. Of course 
she could fall back upon her profes- 
sion and command a very fair en- 
gagement, but it would mean a very 
different income from that which she 
derived from the music hall. She 
wondered whether Cudemore had the 
rights he claimed over the place at 
present ; but the mortgage she knew 
was a fact, and where £o get six 
thousand pounds she didn't know. 
She had come down to the Syringa 
early in order to avoid observation, 
and hurried back to the cottage in 



MR. CU DEMURE GETS UNEASY 



169 



consequence of a letter from Morant 
received that morning. 

When she and Bessie had fetched 
the other three back from the library, 
as it was the custom to call James 
Foxborough's own den, Mrs. Foxbor- 
ough sat down to make acquaintance 
with Phil Soames, while Morant was 
left to entertain the two girls. Mrs- 
Foxborough was a quick witted 
woman, and she had heard of Phil's 
business qualifications from Herbert. 
She was much struck with his quiet, 
shrewd remarks, for she had turned 
the conversation on his (Soames') own 
business and position, and what he 
thought of Herbert's chance of pros- 
pering in the opening his firm had so 
kindly afforded him, and her heart 
felt light about the prospects of her 
daughters as she listened to Phil's 
clear exposition of the future. Sud- 
denly it flashed across her that she 
sorely needed some one to advise her. 
Why should she not confide her trou- 
ble about the Syringa to this clear- 
headed son-in-law that was to be ? 

She paused for a moment and then 
said, " Mr. Soames, I want your ad- 
vice," and without further preliminary 
she poured into Phil's ears the stories 
of her difficulties with Mr. Cudemore. 

" Don't be alarmed, Mrs. Foxbor- 
ough," replied Soames quietly as she 
concluded. " Pve no doubt, in the 
first place, when this bullying money- 
lender is confronted with a sharp 
solicitor we shall find his power over 
the Syringa to be mythical. Secondly, 
I have no doubt that when the mort- 
gage has to be paid off I can obtain 
the money for you if the property is 
anything like what you represent it to 
be. Lastly, with your permission, I'll 
call in my partner in embryo. Pve a 
notion in days gone by he also patro- 
nized this Cudemore ; he might give 
us a hint, and mind, Mrs. Foxbor- 
ough, I'm training him to business. 
Come here, Herbert, we want you for 
a minute." 

" Yes, and he's rather popular on 
this side of the room just now," re- 
plied Nid. " Mamma monopolizing 
two young men is sheer tyranny." 

"We only want him for two minutes, 
Nid," replied Soames, laughing. "A 
matter of business." 

"Oh ! dear ; we don't require him 



in that capacity in the least ; you had 
better go, sir." 

"What is it?" said Herbert as he 
crossed the room. 

" You told me one night at Baum- 
borough, if I don't mistake, that you 
once had some dealings with a money- 
lender of the name of Cudemore ? " 

" Yes, the thief, he's slippery as an 
eel. What about him ? " 

"May I tell him, Mrs. Foxbor- 
ough ? " asked Phil. 

The manageress nodded assent, 
and then Soames told the story of 
Mr. Cudemore's audacious claim to 
look into the books, see the receipts, 
and otherwise interfere with the man- 
agement of the Syringa. 

" The confounded scoundrel," ex- 
claimed Morant, " Pve half a mind to 
break every bone in his body, only 
Pve an idea it is unnecessary. Listen, 
Phil, the forty-eight hours stipulated 
is up. We came prepared to stay the 
night in town. Let Bessie stay here 
as originally proposed, but let you and 
I, instead of going to an hotel, take 
the train back to Baumborough. Be 
guided by me this time, Phil." 

" Herbert's quick enough, Mrs. Fox- 
borough, when he takes the trouble to 
think. He knows what he's talking 
about now, and I don't, but I have no 
hesitation about putting myself into 
his hands." 

" Good ! Mrs. Foxborough," said 
Morant, " I may be mistaken, but Pve 
an impression Cudemore will trouble 
you no more." 

" And I feel sure," said Philip, as 
he bade his hostess adieu, " that 
mortgage can be arranged. Remem- 
ber, you've a right to claim my assist- 
ance now." 

Then the two young men made 
their farewells to the girls. Bessie 
kissed her fiana!, and shook hands 
with her future brother-in-law ; if they 
thought it necessary they should go, 
no doubt it was so ; but Nid was not 
to be dismissed so easily. The little 
coquette affected to pout, and said 
that if Herbert and her new brother 
were satisfied with such a flying visit 
as that she was afraid the si;_;ht of her 
was not good in the kind's eyes, and 
here she looked at Phil ; but at this 
juncture her lover caught her in his 
arms, and, lifting her off her feet, 



i?o 



AT FAULT 



snatched half-a-doten kisses, then, 
putting her down breathless and in- 
dignant, rushed out of the room, fol- 
lowed by Phil. 

" Ah ! " said Nid when she was 
able to speak, " that's what it is to be 
little ; nobody, not even strong, tall 
Phil, could subject you to such an out- 
rage." 

" Oh, yes," rejoined Bessie, laugh- 
ing, " I fancy he could if he tried, and 
I don't think, my dear, I should feel 
any worse about it than you do." 

" Miss Hyde, I'm ashamed of you," 
rejoined Nid demurely ; " come and 
have some tea." 



CHAPTER XXXVII 

NO LONGER " AT FAULT " 

AS soon as Phil Soames and Morant 
arrived in Baumborough they hurried 
off to the home of the former, and 
had just time to tumble into their 
evening clothes previous to joining 
the dinner-table, at which their unex- 
pected advent occasioned no little 
surprise on the part of Phil's parents. 
However, as this worthy pair were 
completely ignorant of what had 
taken the young men to town, some 
vague excuse about having changed 
their minds amply sufficed to allay 
their curiosity. The meal over, Phil 
and Morant adjourned to the former's 
sanctum, as they often did for an 
after-dinner cigar. 

No sooner had they gained it upon 
this occasion than Morant said, "Of 
course, Phil, we didn't come here to 
smoke to-night. We'll just light our 
cigarettes, and then we must go across 
to Dr. Ingleby's and see if he has any 
news of Mr. Usher. He should 
have." 

" All right," rejoined Soames ; 
" you're in command, you know." 

So oft to Dr. Ingleby's, only some 
quarter of a mile away, the two 
started. The doctor was as much 
astonished to see them as had been 
old Mr. and Mrs. Soames. 

" Why, I thought you were not 



coming down till to-morrow,'' he ex- 
claimed, the customary greetings over. 

" Quite right,'' replied Morant ; 
" but something we heard in London 
made us think it desirable to see Mr. 
Usher as soon as possible. He pro- 
mised me to be here to-night." 

" And he has been. He came, he 
said, to tell us the complete story of 
the Bunbury mystery ; but when he 
found you two were not here, he 
asked permission to postpone his 
story, as he seemed to think it prob- 
able you might clear up one or two 
points about which he is still doubt- 
ful, if you only heard the story. He 
hasn't been gone a quarter of an 
hour." 

"How deuced unlucky !" exclaimed 
Morant. 

" Nonsense, Herbert," cried Phil 
Soames. " He can't have left the 
town. Where does he put up, doc- 
tor ? " 

" At the Woolpack ; and we shall 
probably find him there, if I send for 
him." 

" Nonsense, doctor ; I'll go my- 
self," exclaimed Morant. " You two 
just wait quietly here, and I'll be back 
with Mr. Usher in a quarter of an 
hour at furthest," and with these 
words Herbert vanished. 

Little was said between the doctor 
and Phil Soames during the interval 
of Morant's absence ; they were both 
too anxious to listen to the coming 
revelation to speak much. 

The quarter of an hour had hardly 
elasped when Herbert entered trium- 
phantly, closely followed by Sergeant 
Usher. 

" Good evening, Mr. Soames ; and 
once more good evening, Dr. Ingleby. 
I'm very glad, gentlemen, you came 
back, and that Mr. Morant came and 
fetched me, for I should like to tell 
you the whole story of the Bunbury 
murder before I leave Baumborough, 
as you have been, so to speak, all a 
bit mixed up in it, and are certainly 
all interested in the riddle. I must 
leave for town by the 11.30, but I've 
got a good hour and a half to spare, 
which will much more than suffice to 
tell my story." 

" You can easily imagine, sergeant, 
we are all extremely anxious to hear 
it," replied Dr. Ingleby; "indeed, 



NO LONGER "AT FAULT' 



171 



these two gentlemen came back from 
London for nothing else." 

" So Mr. Morant tells me, sir," re- 
joined the sergeant as he quietly 
seated himself and commenced his 
narrative : — 

" James Foxborough (and as far as 
I know that is his real name) started 
in life as articled clerk to an attorney 
in London. Like many of that class, 
he had a great fondness for the 
theatre. Somehow or other, at one 
of the minor suburban theatres, he 
scraped acquaintance with Miss 
Nydia Willoughby, then a struggling 
young actress, and concerning whose 
earlier history 1 know no more than I 
learnt from Mr. Soames in this room 
a few weeks back. Nor is it in the 
least necessary I should. The two 
fell in love, and after a little married. 
James Foxborough broke his articles, 
and managed, through his wife's in- 
fluence, to obtain a small engagement 
on the stage. But unluckily he was 
not possessed of what the literary 
people call histrionic powers. His 
wife kept steadily fighting her way 
upwards, but he just as steadily 
dropped into a mere super. He was 
entrusted with letters to carry on, and 
about two lines to say; and his salary, 
gentlemen, was about as short as his 
part. Well, to do Foxborough jus- 
tice, he was clear grit ; he'd no idea 
of living on his wife's earnings, and as 
soon as he had satisfactorily ascer- 
tained that he couldn't earn bread 
and cheese on the stage, he an- 
nounced his intention of seeking it 
elsewhere, and they parted, quite 
amicably. Mind now, you may ask 
how can I know all this ? I only 
reply, I know the main facts of the 
case so far, and have filled in the 
remainder by inference, as any one of 
you might, and probably would do. 

" Now," continued the sergeant, 
" the idea that had occurred to James 
Foxborough, by way of earning his 
living, was to fall back upon his old 
profession. His experience as an 
actor had made him pretty sick of the 
stage as a profession ; the gilt was all 
off the gingerbread as far as he was 
concerned ; but remember, he had 
broken his articles ; and though I 
don't suppose — though I honestly 
confess I don't know — that there iy 



any very severe penalty ior that, still 
it was quite sufficient to make him 
change his name, and leave London. 
To begin upon, he was not an attor- 
ney, and how he managed to get his 
name on the rolls I can't say — I lose 
sight of him here for two years or 
more ; when I next pick him up he's 
practising in Baumborough, under the 
name of John Fossdyke." 

" What ! " cried Dr. Ingleby, " you 
mean to tell us that John Fossdyke 
and James Foxborough are the same 



man 



?» 



" Not a doubt about it," rejoined 
Mr. Usher. 

" Impossible ! " exclaimed Morant. 
" Very much alike, if you will ; but 
the same man — ridiculous." 

" I told you it was a beautiful case," 
rejoined the sergeant ; " and the 
reason we could never find the slight- 
est trace of James Foxborough is that 
he is buried in John Fossdyke's 
grave." 

"But, good God 1 Mr. Usher, if 
your story is true," said Dr. Ingleby, 
" poor Mrs. Fossdyke was never 
married." 

" Undoubtedly not. Her husband's 
name wasn't Fossdyke, for one thing, 
and he was already married, for 
another. Now Foxborough," con- 
tinued the sergeant, " when he first 
came to Baumborough was a very 
poor man. He constantly ran up to 
town, and received, I fancy, a good bit 
of assistance still from his wife. And 
now, Dr. Ingleby, I should feel much 
obliged if you would continue the 
story." 

" Certainly," replied the doctor, 
" and the bit you want nobody can 
piece in better than myself. Foss- 
dyke, or I suppose I should say Fox- 
borough, gradually began to acquire a 
fair practice here ; he was a pushing 
man, who would have his finger in 
every pie that was baking. He was a 
plausible man, with great command 
of words, a popular man, and to some 
extent a clever man, and the farmers 
around especially took to him. You 
see he had some sporting proclivities, 
liked a day's hunting, a day's shooting, 
or a day's steeple-chasing, when he 
could find time for it, and in those 
days he was clever enough to know 
that it paid in the long run to make 



172 



A7 FAUL1 



time for it. His practice rapidly in- 
creased, and he became a man of 
mark in the town ; then he made his 
great hit in life — I'm speaking of him 
as Fossdyke— he married Mary Kim- 
berley. This at once gave a status it 
would have taken him some years yet 
to acquire, and thanks to the interest 
his marriage gave him, he shortly 
afterwards acquired the post of Town 
Clerk. I have got nothing further to 
add than this, that though his income 
was an exceedingly handsome one, 
and though he apparently lived well 
within it, yet there were invariably 
tales about the difficulty the trades- 
men had in getting money from him." 

" Yes, doctor," interposed Mr. 
Usher, " that's where it was ; that'll 
be about the time he went into a good 
many provincial theatrical specs 
which terminated all the wrong way, 
and it was on these speculations he 
contrived to make away with the best 
part of Mrs. Fossdyke's money. Then 
at last came his first theatrical hi' — 
he built and started the Syringa 
Music Hall, and to do that, doctor, he 
appropriated between five and six 
thousand pounds of the Corporation 
funds." 

" Impossible, Mr. Usher, if such a 
thing had not come out in his life- 
time it must have done at his death." 

" And that is just what has hap- 
pened," replied the sergeant, " that 
wearisome Totterdell creature has 
discovered it, though he is not exactly 
aware of the real meaning of his dis- 
covery. When the Corporation, as 
I'm told at Mr. TotterdelPs instance, 
voted for the calling in of that mort- 
gage on the houses and buildings 
belonging to the railway company 
near the station in order to pay for 
their new theatre, the discovery of 
Foxborough's fraudulent appropri- 
ation of their moneys was imminent. 
It was then that he went to one Cude- 
more, to whom he had often applied 
before, indeed, had recourse to him 
about the building of the Syringa, the 
misappropriated money not proving 
sufficient, and raised from him, with 
the assistance of Mr. Sturton, the 
great Bond Street tailor, the requisite 
sum to cover his deficiencies, and 
but for Mr. Totterdell, who is always 
nosing round like a truffle dog about 



his neighbours' affairs, I don't sup- 
pose any one would have ever known 
anything about that quiet borrowing 
of the Corporation's money. He 
somehow found out that no such 
mortgage was ever effected, although 
five per cent, interest was regularly 
credited to the Corporation on ac- 
count of it." 

" Most extraordinary," said Dr. 
Ingleby. " I can't conceive this 
never having come to my ears/' 

As for Phil Soames and Morant, 
they sat silent and absorbed in the 
extraordinary history that Mr. Usher 
was slowly unfolding for their edifica- 
tion. 

" Not at all, sir," replied the ser- 
geant. " Mr. Totterdell so very im- 
perfectly understands his discovery 
that he is actually unable to talk 
about it. You must bear in mind, 
gentlemen, that though I can prove 
all my leading points, I am filling in 
my story here and there from what I 
suppose to have been the case. We 
next come to the opening of the 
Baumborough Theatre, and here for 
the first time the author of the Bun- 
bury mystery appears upon the scene. 
What brought Mr. Cudemore there I 
honestly say I don't know, but " 

" Good gracious ! you mean to say, 
then, that the money-lender was the 
murderer of poor Fossdyke ? — I 
should say Foxborough," exclaimed 
Dr. Ingleby. 

"Just so," replied the sergeant, 
perfectly unmoved. " These two 
gentlemen have heard his name be- 
fore, I fancy, at all events Mr. Morant 
has. As I was saying, what brought 
him down to that ceremony I can't 
fathom, but I do know this, that for 
the first time he became aware that 
John Fossdyke and James Fox- 
borough were one — were the same 
individual. That a man of Cude- 
more's stamp should attempt to make 
capital out of such knowledge is a 
mere matter of course ; that he wrote 
the note which took Mr. Fossdyke 
over to Bunbury I can prove. Mr. 
Morant, there, can swear to the hand- 
writing for one, and I have another 
unimpeachable witness to testify to it 
besides. Now, gentlemen, just con- 
sider what that note meant to the 
dead man. He, of course, recognised 



NO LONGER "AT FAULT" 



173 



the handwriting, and the signature, 
James Foxborough, told him his 
secret was discovered. He goes over 
to Bunbury to see what terms he can 
make with the man who has sur- 
prised his secret. He knows Cude- 
more well, and no doubt is prepared 
for exorbitant demands on the part of 
the money-lender. What Cudemore 
did ask we shall perhaps never know. 
It may be he demanded a very large 
slice back of that six thousand which 
he, in conjunction with Mr. Sturton, 
had lent. That, as we know, Fox- 
borough could not comply with. He 
had already used the whole of the 
money to conceal his breach of trust 
in connection with the funds of the 
Municipal Council. But whatever 
Cudemore wanted, we may feel pretty 
certain it was not Foxborough's life. 
That he did slay him I believe, but it 
was undoubtedly an unpremeditated 
murder. When men of this stamp 
get a hold over their fellows, and in- 
tend to make them what my brethren 
in Paris call " sing," or, as we term it, 
blackmail them, of course the vic- 
tim's life is the last thing aimed at. 
They want perpetual hush-money 
from him, and his death naturally 
puts an end to all that. Now, gentle- 
men, if any of you can give me any 
clue to what Cudemore's motive can 
have been — that is to say, what it was 
he wanted to wring from Foxborough 
— I shall be obliged to you." 

" All we know amounts to this," 
said Soames. " Ever since the mur- 
der Cudemore has shown a great 
desire to get the Syringa Music Hall 
into his own hands. He has given 
notice of foreclosing the mortgage, 
evidently relying upon Mrs. Fox- 
borough's inability to find the six thou- 
sand pounds with which to meet it." 

The sergeant thought for a few 
minutes, and then said to Mr. Soames, 
" I can't think that could have been 
the cause of the murder. Has Cude- 
more any quarrel with Mrs. Fox- 
borough that you know of?'' 

" Certainly Mrs. Foxborough thinks 
he has treated her very badly about 
the Syringa," replied Morant, "and 
declines to have anything to do with 
him, saying when the time comes if 
she cannot find the money he must 
take the music hall." 



Neither Soames ncr Morant were 
in the least aware of the money- 
lender's mad passion for Nid. 

"No," said Mr. Usher, "that is a 
consequence of the murder, but cer- 
tainly not the cause of it. Even in 
his first moments of exasperation at 
finding he couldn't have his slice back 
of the six thousand he had lent, Cude- 
more would never have been such a 
fool as that. With the hold he had 
over Foxborough he could have be- 
come a partner in the Syringa on his 
own terms. Well, gentlemen, it's no 
use trying to guess a riddle now, 
which the trial will probably solve. 
We have brought the thing down now 
to this : Cudemore, at the opening of 
the Baumborough Theatre, convinced 
himself that James Foxborough and 
John Fossdyke were one man. 
Whether he suspected it before I 
don't know, nor does it matter. 
Taking advantage of his discovery, 
he summons Fossdyke to dine with 
him at Bunbury, and what concession 
he demanded to hold his tongue we 
don't know, but in the sitting-room 
the two men quarrelled, and either by 
accident or design Cudemore stabbed 
his companion to the heart. He then 
carried him into the adjoining room, 
divested him of his dress coat, and 
placed him as he was found." 

" But dont you think," said 
Soames, " that a man like poor 
Fossdyke might be stung to sucb 
madness by finding his secret at 
the mercy of a man like Cudemore 
as to lay violent hands on himself?" 

" Quite possible, sir ; but first Dr. 
Ingleby will tell you that from the 
peculiar direction of the wound it 
could hardly have been self-inflicted. 
Secondly, if he is an innocent man 
why did not Mr. Cudemore come 
forward and tell his story ? and, 
lastly, there's that third point, which 
was pretty well proved at the inquest, 
if the door was not locked from the 
outside, where was the key ? " 

" It might have been thrown out of 
the window," said Herbert. 

" Now, really, Mr. Morant," re- 
joined the sergeant with a depreca- 
tory smile, " that's a cutting observa- 
tion to a crack officer of ' the Yard.' 
You can't suppose but what 1 had 
every inch of ground under that 



174 



AT FAULT 



window searched that very afternoon 
as far round as it was possible for a 
man to throw a key. No, it was an off- 
chance, but I didn't overlook it ; and 
now, gentlemen, I must say good- 
night, as I have to catch the mail 
train." 

" One word more, Mr. Usher," said 
Soames. " I suppose Mrs. Fox- 
borough need fear no further molesta- 
tion from Mr. Cudemore ? " 

" Neither she nor any one else for a 
very considerable time to come. Mr. 
Cudemore will be in custody about 
breakfast time to-morrow morning. 
Once more, good-night, gentlemen." 

"Usher's case is beautifully clear," 
said the doctor as the detective left 
the room, " but there'll be no convic- 
tion of murder, I fancy." 

"No," said Soames, "he'll get off 
with manslaughter, I'm inclined to 
think." 



CHAPTER XXXVIII 

MR. CUDEMORE'S ARREST 

On his way home from the Syringa 
Music Hall after his final rebuff from 
Mrs. Foxborough, Mr. Cudemore first 
awoke to the fact that he was dogged. 
A rather less expert tracker than 
Old Nibs had for a little taken that 
worthy's place, and the money-lender's 
eyes had fallen mechanically upon a 
shabby genteel young man as he left 
the Hall. Coming down Portland 
Street he rather suddenly struck into 
one of the side streets leading into 
Portland Place, then suddenly re- 
collecting the want of some small 
article of haberdashery such as he 
was accustomed to purchase at a 
shop in Oxford Street, turned about 
abruptly to retrace his steps. At the 
corner he ran almost into the arms of 
the shabby genteel young man he had 
noticed outside the Syringa. In an 
instant all the money-lender's sus- 
picions were aroused, he pursued the 
even tenor of his way into Oxford 
Street, but like ? woman now he had 



eyes in the back of his head. He 
walked home quite leisurely, and 
knew perfectly well that shabby 
young man followed him like his 
shadow. To take a cab Mr. Cude- 
more knew would be useless. If he 
was, as he had no doubt now, under 
the surveillance of the police, they 
knew perfectly where he lived, and 
any attempt to evade his unwelcome 
attendant was ridiculous. Besides, 
go home he must, if it was only to get 
that thousand pounds which he had 
just procured for this very emergency. 
Peeping from behind his curtains, 
Mr. Cudemore caught occasional 
glances of the shabby young man 
lounging pensively up and down the 
street. He was a young officer, new 
to his business, and undoubtedly 
rather too pronounced in his manner 
of conducting it. 

" If they were only all such duffers 
as that," muttered the money-lender, 
" the idea of not being able to slip the 
police at any moment would be pre- 
posterous." 

And then he prepared to go out and 
dine and enjoy himself. He dined 
and drank a bottle of champagne at 
the Criterion, and then once more 
adjourned to a theatre. He did not 
see the shabby young man any more, 
but felt quite sure that he was 
accompanied by an attendant Sprite, 
and troubled his head little about it. 
To-morrow he would make a bolt of 
it. He would complete all his pre- 
parations that night, and disappear 
from London next day at such time 
as might seem to him most favour- 
able. He had no doubt about com- 
passing this little matter of evasion of 
the police, but still he regarded it as a 
delicate operation, and not to be 
carried out at any fixed period. After 
the play, Mr. Cudemore felt that his 
spirits required sustaining to the 
extent of a pint of champagne and a 
dozen of oysters, and accordingly so 
sustained them. Then he drove 
quietly home to make preparations 
for his flight. These consisted for 
the most part in the burning of 
several letters and papers. Then he 
packed a small hand-bag with great 
care, and laid out his overcoat and 
railway rug. Finally he took from 
his writing-table a well-stuffed note 



MR. CU DEMURE' S ARREST 



175 



case, and placed it on the dressing- 
table, and then Mr. Cudemore un- 
dressed and went to bed. 

As to what direction his Might was 
to take Mr. Cudemore was not so 
clear, but he had a leaning towards 
Scotland. As for baffling the police 
at the rate of abandoning his hand- 
bag, railway-rug, etc., that he thought 
would not be difficult. He thought 
that once he had taken his ticket and 
his seat with such slender baggage 
they would feel quite sure of his 
absconding, and fancy they knew all 
about it. His idea, then, was to get 
into a second-class carriage at the last 
moment, and leave the train at the 
very first station. For this purpose 
he intended to take two tickets — one 
first right through for Edinburgh, say, 
if he took that line ; the other second 
for the first station out of London, 
and it need scarcely be said he had 
no intention of travelling by express. 
The idea was ingenious, and it is 
much to be regretted that Mr. Cude- 
more was never destined to put his 
scheme to the test, but his passion 
for Nid Foxborough was destined to 
prove fatal to him as the candle to 
the moth. Mr. Cudemore might 
have left the country at one time 
without let, hindrance, or suspicion, 
but that time was now gone by. 
The toils were around him, and 
that mighty Nimrod of criminal 
humanity, Mr. Usher, had marked 
him for his own. 

Having ascertained from one of 
his myrmidons on his return to town 
that Mr. Cudemore was in his own 
house, the sergeant, with that con- 
sideration for his victim which 
always characterized his proceedings, 
resolved to allow him one more 
night in his own comfortable rooms, 
and having warned another officer 
to come over to his (Mr. Usher's) 
quarters punctually at eight, the 
sergeant returned to Spring Gardens, 
and tranquilly slept within fifty 
yards of his intended prisoner. 

The appointed time found Mr. 
Usher all dressed and ready for 
business. No sooner did he see 
from his window the approach of 
the constable than the sergeant de- 
scended rapidly to the street and 
; oined bis colleague. The habits of 



Mr. Cudemore's establishment were 
accurately known. The charwoman 
who cleaned out the offices arrived 
at eight, the office-boy (or third 
clerk, as he loved to designate him- 
self) at nine, and the other two 
clerks at ten ; consequently when 
Mr. Usher presented himself he 
found the charwoman sweeping the 
steps, banging the mats against the 
neighbouring railings, and the door 
wide open. 

" Lawk-a-mussy, it's the perlice ! " 
chimed that lady as Mr. Usher, 
followed by the constable in uniform, 
pushed past her. The sergeant 
knew all about the house quite as 
much as if he had lived in it all his 
life, and ascended at once to the 
second floor ; there he paused, and 
turning round, said to his follower : 

" Wait here, Brooks, and don't 
come in till I call you " ; and then 
Mr. Usher quietly opened the bed- 
room door and found himself face 
to face with Mr. Cudemore, half- 
dressed, and grasping a hairbrush in 
either hand. 

"Who the devil are you? What 
the deuce do you mean by coming 
up here in this sort of way ? " ex- 
claimed the money-lender angrily, 
but even as he spoke his lips 
tightened and he knew that the 
avenger was upon him. 

" Now, Mr. Cudemore, it's no use 
making a fuss about it. I'm Sergeant 
Usher, and I've come to arrest you 
for the murder of John Fossdyke, 
at Bunbury, last September." 

" Arrest me for the murder of John 
Fossdyke ! " repeated Mr. Cudemore, 
and putting down the brushes he fell 
back some three or four paces and 
stole his hand towards the lid of a 
small davenport in a corner of the 
room. 

" Yes," said the sergeant as he 
sprang forward, quick, agile as a 
wild cat, and pinned Mr. Cudemore 
by the wrist. " None of that non : 
sense ! What's the use of your 
fumbling for a revolver. Bless your 
innocence, you'll find another man on 
the landing, and another at the door, 
and will never get fifty yards without 
being arrested. Do you think shoot- 
ing me is the way to prove yourself 
not guilty ? Don't be a fool ; just 



176 



AT FAULT 



finish dressing yourself Defore I slip 
on the bracelets, and we'll have a 
cab and go across to ' the Yard ' 
quietly till it's time to go down to 
Westminster." 

"All right, Mr. Usher," said the 
money-lender. "Excuse a slight 
error of judgment owing to the excite- 
ment of the moment." 

Cudemore then proceeded leisurely 
to complete his toilet, and at last 
emerged from the dressing-room with 
that particularly well-stuffed note-case 
in his hand. 

"Shall I be allowed to keep this?" 
he asked. "There's a good lot of 
money in it." 

" Chuck full of bank-notes, I can 
see," replied Mr. Usher. " Of course, 
it will be yours till you are com- 
mitted, and you will be that before 
midday. Then, you know, we take 
care of it for you, or hand it over to 
any one you please to name." 

"Yes, there's a good deal more 
than two hundred pounds here," said 
Cudemore slowly. " I've nothing to 
say to this Bunbury affair, of course, 
but the mere accusation is an awful 
stigma for a professional man like 
myself. I've often heard men of your 
craft have made more money by miss- 
ing a thief than finding him." 

"Stow that, Mr. Cudemore. I 
understand what you mean, of course, 
but Silas Usher's never worked on 
the cross yet, and he isn't going to 
begin. Now, sir, as soon as you're 
ready I'll send Brooks for a cab. All 
right," continued the sergeant as the 
money-lender signified a sullen as- 
sent ; then, putting his head outside 
the door, Mr. Usher briefly observed, 
" Growler, Brooks, quick as you can ! " 

They had not many minutes to wait 
before Brooks announced the cab was 
at the door, and then Mr. Usher ad- 
vancing, said, — 

" I don't want to be uncivil, but I 
must slip these on." 

"One moment, please," exclaimed 
Cudemore ; " reach me an envelope 
out of the davenport behind you. 
They will never take this from me ?" 
he asked anxiously as he removed a 
photograph from the book. 

" No," said the sergeant, eyeing 
him curiously. " I fancy you'll be 
allowed to retain that." 



Cudemore put the photograph care- 
fully into the envelope, and then 
placing it with the note-case in his 
breast-pocket, simply held out his 
hands and said, — 

" I am ready." 

In an instant the steel handcuffs 
snapped round his wrists, and he 
quietly preceded Mr. Usher to the 
door at which Brooks stood waiting. 
Mr. Usher followed him down the 
stairs, and having seen the money- 
lender and the constable into a cab, 
delegated to the latter worthy the 
task of conveying the prisoner to 
Scotland Yard, some two or three 
hundred yards' distance only, and 
turned back into the house to make a 
cursory overhaul of Mr. Cudemore's 
apartments. 

It was not that Mr. Usher expected 
to get much out of the investigation, 
but it was a piece of mechanical work 
that he never neglected. None knew 
better than the sergeant the curious 
monomania that compels murderers 
to preserve some damning evidence 
of their crime. It is always so trivial 
that in their eyes it cannot matter, 
and yet that little link is just the 
thing that knots the noose round their 
throats. Few now recollect the great 
Stansfield Hall murder, and yet the 
want of a wedding certificate brought 
Rush to the gallows. He was hung 
on the evidence of his mistress, whose 
evidence, had she been his wife, was 
inadmissible. 

Mr. Usher flitted and peered about 
the sitting-room and dining-room like 
a magpie, but without any result ; 
though it is fair to say the money- 
lender's locks were respected, and 
only his open repositories subjected 
to search, and then the Serjeant once 
more ascended to the second floor. 
His investigations here met with little 
more result till he came to the dress- 
ing-table and threw open the drawers 
The first contained simply some half- 
dozen razors and a packet of shaving- 
paper, but in the second, amidst a lot 
of knick-knacks, such as old studs, dis- 
abled pins, and broken sleeve-links, 
Mr. Usher observed something which 
set him a-pondering. 

" It would be odd if it were," said 
he ; " but nevertheless it's odd its 
being here by itself. Still, it's so as- 



THE TRIAL 



»77 



tonishing the mistakes they all make 
that the man who can bring off a 
great murder is a genius almost. 
Anyway I'll take you," and what Mr. 
Usher put into his pocket was an 
ordinary chamber key. 



CHAPTER XXXIX 

"THE TRIAL" 

The Bunbury mystery had pretty 
well died out of men's minds, and 
when alluded to people shook their 
heads and opined the police would 
never take Foxborough now ; so when 
the first edition of the Globe came 
out with the " Bunbury Mystery — 
Arrest of the Murderer," in the largest 
type, there was quite a sensation in 
London. Newspaper boys trotted 
along, bellowing at the top of their 
voices what sounded like " Bum'stery 
arrest of the murd'rer," and got 
double prices for their wares. At the 
clubs tongues were wagging ; and 
when it was known Mr. Cudemore, 
the money-lender, was in custody on 
the charge, wagging faintly expressed 
the pace at which they oscillated. 

There were members, for instance, 
at the Theatine" who could speak with 
undoubted authority regarding Mr. 
Cudemore, and not in that loose and 
desultory fashion in which they had 
manufactured biography for James 
Foxborough. Although the money- 
lender had been prone to invest his 
money in theatrical circles, Mr. Stur- 
ton sent him many a client from the 
jeunesse doree, and there were mem- 
bers of the Theatine" who pondered 
gravely how this would affect certain 
acceptances the renewal of which 
would be so infinitely simpler than 
the taking of them up. And the 
members of the Theatine", being, as a 
rule, like the Heathen Chinee, of a 
disposition " childlike and bland," 
always preferred the simpler course. 

The arrest of the murderer sufficed 
to fan the waning interest of the 



public once more into a flame ovei 
the Bunbury mystery. That the ac- 
cused should be one whose trade was 
usury added an additional whet to 
the public appetite, always prejudiced 
against these philanthropists, regard- 
ing them invariably as endowed with 
hearts of granite and no bowels of 
compassion — a view of the London 
money-lender which the Northumber- 
land Street tragedy of some twenty 
years ago tended much to strengthen. 
Arraigned of any such crime, and 
public opinion is apt to condemn the 
luckless usurer without waiting for 
the production of evidence. The 
latter editions contained the account 
of the prisoner's appearance at West- 
minster, which, of course, ended in 
his being remanded. 

In these days, as we all know, a 
man accused of a capital crime is 
generally tried three times. First, 
before the coroner ; secondly, before 
the police magistrates ; and thirdly, 
before a judge and jury. Our system 
of justice is doubtless perfect, but no 
one can say it is either speedy or 
inexpensive. It will be only neces- 
sary, therefore, to say that after some 
few days, during which the public 
were once more roused to fervent 
interest about the great Bunbury 
murder, Mr. Cudemore was committed 
to Newgate, there to await his trial. 

A great artist was Sergeant Usher. 
If ever there was a man, to speak 
metaphorically, who delighted in keep- 
ing a few trumps up his sleeve, it 
was he. Very little of the real 
story oozed out at Westminster. He 
confined himself entirely to proving 
that Cudemore was the stranger at 
the Baumborough Theatre, that Cude- 
more was No. 11 at the Hopbine, 
and that Cudemore was the writer of 
the note, and the man John Fossdyke 
dined with. Quite sufficient this to 
justify a committal, and concerning 
the identity of John Fossdyke with 
James Foxborough the sergeant ad- 
duced no evidence whatever. To his 
intense disgust, even Mr. Totterdell 
was not brought to London to give 
his evidence, Mr. Usher preferring; 
to rely upon Miss Lightcomb's testi- 
mony as to Mr. Cudemore having 
been present at the opening of the 
Baumborough Theatre, while he only 



178 



A I FAULT 



called upon Morant to testify to the 
prisoner's handwriting. In the smok- 
ing-room of the Theatine it was agreed 
that if more evidence on this point 
was desirable they could furnish it, 
and then some astute rhetorician 
started the problem as to whether 
when a usurer came to his death by 
premature strangulation, acceptances 
become void or payable to the Crown, 
and this knotty point led to much 
wordy argument and consumption 
of drinks. 

But the very fact of so little having 
come out in the public court only 
further awoke the curiosity of the 
public. Where was Foxborough ? 
What had become of him ? He, of 
course, was in the background ; the 
man couldn't be a myth. Foxborough, 
lessee of the Syringa, was a fact, an 
undoubted fact. There were plenty 
of people who knew the Syringa, and 
knew that James Foxborough was the 
lessee, but when it came to any know- 
ledge of the man's personality, these 
people were lamentably abroad, and 
constrained to admit they had never 
seen him. Still, the Bunbury murder 
was once more the topic of the day, 
and Radstone assizes were looked 
forward to with absorbing interest by 
no inconsiderable section of the com- 
munity. 

A cause celebre in these days of 
diffusion of universal knowledge, like 
libel and scandal, is apt to attract 
considerable attention. It attracts 
two large sections of the public, those 
who have nothing to do, and to whom 
a public scandal or case of this nature 
is a boon inasmuch as it gives them 
something to think about and talk 
about, and that busy division to whom 
it is something like a great realistic 
novel, unravelling itself day by day. 
Further, it must be noted that Mr. 
Cudemore was a man of resources, 
and in a position to engage equally 
eminent counsel to those retained for 
the Crown. 

Mr. Baron Bumblesham, elected to 
try the case, was doubtless as incor- 
ruptible and impartial as English 
judges invariably are, but we cannot 
help our proclivities. Baron Bumble- 
sham's were aristocratic. He meta- 
phorically sat up like a poodle on his 
hind legs to a Duchess, he stood 



literally on his head to Royalty. He 
delighted in presiding over a sensa- 
tional trial. It enabled him to gratify 
his aristocratic friends with " orders," 
and, like a judicious theatrical man- 
ager, he usually kept " his show " 
running as long as it would draw. In 
short, there were all the elements of 
a sensational trial about the Bunbury 
mystery, and, as said before, a sensa- 
tional trial is a thing loved of the 
people. 

Fashionable London, like fashion- 
able Rome, takes a great interest in 
seeing a fellow-creature hounded to 
his death, although the matrons of 
the earlier empire city enjoyed the 
more extended privilege of seeing 
them die by the dozen, while the 
ladies of London must be content to 
see one man wrestle for his life at a 
time. Civilization, in spite of all our 
bragging, does not advance very 
much, and the inherent cruelty of 
human nature is ever seeking to 
gratify its taste. 

Radstone was within such easy 
distance of London that many of 
that mysterious " upper ten thou- 
sand," the fragment of the great city 
not condemned to labour for their 
living, determined to attend the trial. 
Mr. Baron Bumblesham found himself 
inundated with applications from the 
magnates of the land for seats on the 
bench, and Mr. Baron Bumblesham 
smiled, smirked, and promised to do 
his best for His Grace and My Lord, 
and threw the cards of Jones and 
Smith contemptuously into the waste- 
paper basket. It was widely rum- 
oured that this would be one of the 
most sensational trials of the age ; 
and that the police should suddenly 
arrest a man for the murder whose 
name had never as yet been mentioned 
in connection with it, and in defiance 
of the strong presumptive evidence 
there was against the missing Fox- 
borough, seemed to warrant such 
belief. When Sir Horace Silverton 
rose to open the case for the prosecu- 
tion you might have heard a pin drop 
in the court, so anxious were the 
densely packed audience to hear the 
mysterious story unfolded by one of 
the most gifted and fluent speakers 
of the Bar. Quietly and smoothly 
did Sir Horace run through all the 



" THE TRIAL " 



179 



preliminary story of the murder with 
which the public was well acquainted, 
and those who knew him best felt 
that he was simply clearing the ground 
for the effect he felt confident of 
producing. 

" When Silverton begins in that 
way he has a devil of a case in the 
background," remarked a leading 
counsel on the circuit. " I'm going 
into the other court ; just send round 
for me when he wakes up. He's not 
going to talk like that all the time, 
I know. He'll be worth listening to 
before he sits down." 

The preliminary ground cleared, Sir 
Horace, as fine a judge of dramatic 
effect as ever appealed to a jury, 
paused for a moment, passed his 
handkerchief across his brow, and 
then continued his address in a totally 
different tone. The quiet, clear, well- 
modulated voice was now exchanged 
for the impassioned, fervid accents 
with which men enunciate great creeds 
to the world. " Gentlemen," he said, 
" one James Foxborough, lessee of a 
music hall called the Syringa, has so 
far borne the odium of this crime. I 
am about to acquit that luckless per- 
son, I trust, of any concern in it. At 
all events I shall produce, in the first 
place, evidence before you to prove 
that James Foxborough, of the Syringa, 
and John Fossdyke, solicitor of Baum- 
borough, were one and the same per- 
son. Evidence, gentlemen, past all 
dispute." Here the sensation in court 
was such that Sir Horace had to pause 
for a minute or two. " It is curious, it 
will be hard for many of his friends in 
Baumborough to confess that their 
trusted co-mate of so many years has 
been a living lie all this time ; more 
especially, gentlemen, will it be Hard," 
and here Sir Horace dropped his voice 
to that intense whisper with which all 
real masters of oratory are conversant, 
" to those two ladies who have each in 
their different sphere regarded them- 
selves as his wife. I purpose to tres- 
pass upon the private history of James 
Foxborough, alias John Fossdyke, no 
more than is absolutely necessary. 
This inquiry, as I have already 
pointed out, must be necessarily pain- 
ful to many people, and it is no wish 
of the prosecution to make it more so 
than is unavoidable. The identity cf 



Foxborough with Fossdyke I am com- 
pelled to prove, but I desire to go no 
further into his dual history. We next, 
gentlemen, come to the accused. Evi- 
dence will be brought before you to 
show that this was undoubtedly the 
person who stopped at the Hopbine, 
and with whom the deceased went 
over to Bunbury to dine. His note of 
invitation, signed James Foxborough," 
— and here Sir Horace paused as the 
prisoner, hitherto immovable, could 
not refrain from a slight start — " hap- 
pens by a curious accident to have 
been preserved, and I need scarcely 
say we shall have no difficulty in 
identifying the handwriting to your 
entire satisfaction. What it was that 
the defendant sought to extort from 
the deceased we don't pretend to 
know, but there can be little doubt 
that at the opening of the Baum- 
borough Theatre he surprised James 
Foxborough's secret, became aware of 
his dual existence, and that he took 
advantage of this knowledge to at- 
tempt the levying of blackmail in some 
form or other. You will, of course, 
have observed, gentlemen, that in 
addition to the charge of murder we 
have included the minor plea of man- 
slaughter against the prisoner, and I 
am happy to inform you " — and here 
Sir Horace became confidential to 
the jury, and apparently confined his 
address entirely to them with a total 
disregard of the judge and general 
public — " that the theory of the prose- 
cution and the evidence we shall ad- 
duce in support of it is more in 
accordance with the secondary charge. 
My learned friends on the other side 
will doubtless be able to put forward 
many most legitimate reasons in favour 
of that view of the case, and it is very 
possible may argue that the deceased 
committed suicide ; but that Janie^ 
Foxborough did not die with his own 
hand I feel sure of demonstrating to 
your entire satisfaction," and here Sir 
Horace sat down amidst a subdued 
buzz of applause, and left the examin- 
ing of the witnesses for the present to 
Mr. Trail, his junior. 

To recapitulate all the evidence we 
have had about the Bunbury murder 
would be simply wearisome both to 
myself and my readers, but for the 
proper understanding of the story we 



[8o 



AT FAULT 



must just briefly glance at the salient 
points in the case. 

The first witness called was Miss 
Lightcomb, the actress, who looked 
very pretty and flustered, making a 
most attractive and interesting witness 
with which to commence a sensational 
trial. Her testimony was brief, and 
simply associated with the fact that 
she was acquainted with Mr. Cude- 
more, and had met him behind the 
scenes at the opening of the Baum- 
borough Theatre. The counsel for 
the defence declined to cross-examine 
her, and it was of course transparent 
at once to Sir Horace Silverton and 
Mr. Trail that their opponents meant 
to put forward the theory that John 
Fossdyke met his death at his own 
hands. This was only what they ex- 
pected, and it rather amused them to 
think of the terrible trump card they 
held in the background. 

The next witness was our old friend, 
Mr. Totterdell ; the supreme moment 
of his life had at length arrived, and 
it is no hyperbole to say that he 
swelled, so to speak, in the box like a 
turkey-cock with his plumes en evi- 
dence. Mr. Totterdell was the man 
who could speak to the identity of the 
prisoner at the bar. Mr. Totterdell 
was the man who had formed his 
theory concerning the great Bunbury 
murder, and Mr. Totterdell was about 
to explain to a listening impatient world 
how Cudemore, the paid agent of the 
old villain Foxborough,had compassed 
the death of John Fossdyke. But, 
sad to say, the coroner, in his arbitrary 
curtness, was as nothing to Mr. Trail, 
the examining barrister for the Crown. 
Some half-dozen questions amply suf- 
ficed to establish the identity of the 
prisoner at the bar with the stranger 
who sat next to Mr. Totterdell at the 
opening of the Baumborough Theatre ; 
and, then, not only did Mr. Trail inti- 
mate that he had nothing further to 
ask, but the counsel for the defence 
equally seemed no more desirous of 
Mr. Totterdell's views or knowledge 
on the subject. When Mr. Totter- 
dell, clutching frantically at his fast 
diminishing opportunity, commenced, 
apropos to nothing, to say, " And it's 
my opinion, my lord," he was sternly 
vnformed that his opinion was not re- 
fuired and when he faltered forth 



that he " wished to explain," he was 
sharply told that if he did not hold his 
tongue and immediately leave the 
witness-box he would be committed for 
contempt of court. Mr. Winkle, after 
giving his evidence in the famous case 
of Bardell versus Pickwick, was not 
more hopelessly crushed than was Mr. 
Totterdell as he retired from the arena 
in which he had contemplated immor- 
talizing himself. He was like a man 
stunned, and could hardly realize his 
opportunity had been and was 
lost. 

The next witnesses were the people 
of the Hopbine. Old Joe Marlinson, 
in a mingled state of trepidation, ex- 
asperation, and rather too much liquor, 
was a comic witness whom Mr. Trail 
handled tenderly. He was simply, of 
course, called upon to identify the 
prisoner with the gentleman who had 
taken No. 1 1 bedroom last September, 
and with whom Mr. Fossdyke had 
dined. A little erratic and irrelevant 
in his testimony no doubt, as was 
William Gibbons, the boots, who fol- 
lowed him, but both quite clear as to 
Mr. Cudemore's personality. But 
when Eliza Salter, the chambermaid, 
entered the box, and Sir Horace Sil- 
verton himself took her in hand, a 
stir ran through the court, and without 
knowing why, people began to feel 
that one of the great sensations of 
what was rumoured would be a great 
sensational trial was about to com- 
mence. Her recognition of the pris- 
oner as No. ii, afterwards known as 
James Foxborough, of course created 
little interest ; but when Sir Horace 
skilfully drew from her the discovery 
of the note in the empty fire-grate 
the court was positively breathless 
with excitement. 

Yes, she remembered the little 
old gentleman, whom she now knew 
to be Sergeant Usher, the famous de- 
tective, ordering the fire in that room. 
She recollected his suddenly stopping 
her as she was about to throw the 
waste papers she had taken out of the 
empty fireplace on the fire she had 
just lit. Remembered perfectly his 
keeping one of them ; was scolded by 
her master for having allowed him to 
do so ; did not know in the least what 
the paper was Mr. Usher preserved ; 
it seemed to be a small note pf some 



THE TRIAL" 



181 



kind, but she could say nothing more 
positive than that. 

Close observers noticed that for the 
first time the prisoner looked uneasy 
at the turn things were taking, and 
that Mr. Royston, the counsel for the 
defence, manifested marked attention. 

Further examined, Eliza Salter said 
she could swear to the key of Mr. 
Fossdyke's room being in the door 
when he occupied it. The door was 
locked, and had to be broke open on 
theafternoon his death was discovered, 
which was not till five or six hours 
after the prisoner had left the Hop- 
bine. Did not know what became of 
the key, which was missing, and she 
had never seen it since till three days 
ago. 

Great sensation in court. 

It was shown her then by Sergeant 
Usher. She believed the key shown 
her to be the identical key of the bed- 
room in which John Fossdyke was 
discovered dead. Had seen it tried, 
and it undoubtedly fitted the lock as 
if made for it. It was, of course, 
difficult to swear to a key of that de- 
scription, but she was of opinion that 
was the missing key. 

For the first time Mr. Royston in- 
dulged in sharp cross-examination, 
but upon the two points to which he 
directed his endeavours, he failed 
utterly. Eliza Salter professed to 
know nothing whatever about the 
scrap of a note, which she had raked 
out of the empty grate, and which 
Sergeant Usher had impounded, buC 
that he had so seized upon a piece of 
paper and kept it, she was very firm 
and decided about. That the key of 
John Fossdyke's room was in the door 
the night he dined at the Hopbine, she 
was equally clear about ; that it was 
missing next day and she had never 
seen it since, till Mr. Usher produced 
what she believed to be it, she was 
equally positive about, and when she 
-ett the box there was a growing im- 
pression that things were not going 
altogether well for the prisoner. 

And now came a point in the trial 
which not a little discomposed Ser- 
geant Usher. That eminent detective 
always prided himself upon handing 
a case over so complete that the 
attorneys had nothing to do but put it 
on paper for counsel's information. 



It had never struck Mr. Usher, keen ; 
shrewd judge as he was of evidence, 
that there could be the slightest 
difficulty in proving John Fossdyke 
and James Foxborough to be the 
same man, but that was now just 
what came to pass. The whole thing 
became a question of photographs, 
and wonderful as these sun likenesses 
are at times, still it is within the 
knowledge of every one that now and 
again, and by no means unfrequently, 
comes the carte that we fail to recog- 
nise. There were plenty of people 
who knew John Fossdyke, there was 
no lack of folks who could speak to 
the identity of James Foxborough, 
but to lay hold of any one who had 
known the two men, or rather the one 
man under the two aspects, unless 
it was the prisoner in the dock, was 
curiously enough unattainable. 

Mr. Usher was troubled consider- 
ably at this point. Mr. Morant 
testified, as did some other witnesses, 
to their belief that the photograph of 
John Fossdyke represented James 
Foxborough, and there were numer- 
ous people, including the photographer 
himself, to swear that it was that of 
the Town Clerk of Baumborough. 
Mr. Royston saw his opportunity, and 
on cross-examination so shook this 
evidence as to leave it open to ques- 
tion whether Foxborough, lessee of 
the Syringa, was not an entity after 
all, despite the theory of the prosecu- 
tion ; but the great eminent lawyer 
who had rescued many a graceless 
neck from the gallows was no way 
blind to the fact that though he might 
establish a mythical Foxborough in 
the background, there was no getting 
away from Cudemore, his client, 
having been the entertainer of the 
dead man at the Hopbine. That 
John Fossdyke committed suicide 
was of course the defence he intended 
to set up. So far the prosecution 
could advance no theory of black- 
mailing on the part of his client. 
The key alone threatened to be an 
awkward incident, and knowing his 
friend Sir Horace as well as he did, 
and having the experience he had 
of Sergeant Usher, Mr. Royston felt 
sure that key and that note were the 
two awkward features in the case as 
far as his client was concerned. 



182 



AT FAULT 



The next evidence produced for 
the prosecution was that apparently 
innocent invitation to dinner which 
had lured the dead man to his doom ; 
curious, like most of the minor links 
in a great crime, on account of its 
prosaic simplicity, and horribly sug- 
gestive of how little separates our 
every-day, humdrum life from that 
lurid melodrama we read of in the 
newspapers. 

Both Morant and Mr. Sturton 
swore clearly to this being the hand- 
writing of the prisoner at the bar. 
The former clearly and staunchly, 
the second in that nervous, hysterical 
manner which, though apt to be 
terribly disconcerted by cross-exam- 
ination, carries irresistible conviction 
to the hearts of a jury. Such a wit- 
ness may be bullied and frightened 
by the fierce battery of questioning 
to which he finds himself subjected, 
but his hearers still feel he is telling 
them the truth to the very utmost of 
his ability. 

And then stepped into the witness- 
box Sergeant Usher, and everybody 
knew that the great sensational scene 
of the tragedy was on at last. A 
quiet, trained, practical witness this, 
who was neither to be flurried nor 
disconcerted, who understood exactly 
how much reply to give to the ques- 
tions addressed to him, and volun- 
teered no uninvited matter. The 
court was so still you might have 
heard a pin drop, as the saying goes, 
while the famous detective clearly and 
audibly trickled forth his discovery of 
that famous note in the empty grate 
of the room occupied by the dead 
man. Judge, jury, and the public 
listened in that entranced way they 
yield to the great effect of a skilled 
dramatist, when he has what is tech- 
nically termed " caught his audience," 
and when Sir Horace went on to 
draw forth the story of Cudemore's 
arrest, and the finding of the key, the 
excitement of the hearers found vent 
in such a murmur of applause that 
the judge threatened to clear the 
court if it was not instantly sup- 
pressed. And then came that tinge of 
bitterness for Mr. Usher which the 
Roman poet tells us lurked at the 
bottom of all fountains of perennial 
bliss, that surgit amari aliguid, as 



Sir Horace endeavoured to draw from 
him his theory of John Fossdyke and 
James Foxborough being one and the 
same person. Nobody knew better 
than the accomplished counsel the 
risk of endeavouring to prove too 
much ; nobody could be more morally 
convinced that this story was true 
than he was, and also of the great 
difficulty of demonstrating it legally ; 
but the fact had been introduced into 
the case, and was not now to be 
passed over. Now, like everybody 
else in the case on this point, Ser- 

feant Usher was a worthless witness, 
le had never seen John Fossdyke 
till he saw him lying dead in the 
Hopbine at Bunbury, while he haa 
never seen James Foxborough at all. 
He tried to insinuate some of the 
evidence he had collected on this 
point, but it was not likely that an 
old hand like Mr. Royston would 
allow that, and after Mr. Usher had left 
the box that eminent counsel felt 
quite assured the identity of the two 
men would never be established 
legally in that trial. That it was so 
in reality he had no more doubt than 
his opponents, but it was most de- 
cidedly against his client's interest to 
admit it. 

Ellen Maitland followed, and again 
gave evidence as to the dagger having 
been the property of her master, Mr. 
Foxborough ; had missed it, but 
could scarcely say how long before 
the inquest at Bunbury. Knew Mr. 
Cudemore as a friend of her master's. 
He might certainly have had the 
opportunity of taking the dagger in 
question, but could not say for one 
moment that he did so. 

And then came the medical testi- 
mony. An admirable witness was 
Dr. Ingleby, clear and terse, but 
strongly of opinion that the wound 
which caused John Fossdyke's death 
was not self-inflicted. His colleague 
wobbled, and eventually may be said 
to have gone all to pieces in the 
hands of Mr. Trail. 

Sir Horace Silverton addressed the 
court with all that practised fluency 
that had done so much to make his 
reputation. Glossing over the double 
identity business as a thing which, 
though admitting of no moral doubt, 
he confessed to the prosecution having 



C UDEMORE 'S CONFESSION 



i«3 



failed legally to establish, he pointed 
out how little the guilt of the prisoner 
depended on that. Did Cudemore 
write that note ? Was Cudemore the 
man at the Hopbine who enter- 
tained John Fossdyke? And was 
the key found in the drawer of Cude- 
more's dressing-table the key of the 
room in which John Fossdyke died? 
Surely on these three points the jury 
could have no doubt. The theory of 
the defence was the dead man com- 
mitted suicide, but the story of the 
key negatived that. He would simply 
submit this case to them : Did not 
the prisoner induce the late John 
Fossdyke to dine with him under a 
false pretence for some hidden pur- 
poses of his own ? Did not Foss- 
dyke meet with his death on that 
eccasion, and did not the prisoner 
Cudemore never come forward about 
the affair till brought before them by 
the police. They had listened to the 
evidence of Sergeant Usher, and if 
after that they did not feel it their 
duty to return a verdict of " Wilful 
Murder" against the prisoner, he 
should feel more surprised and 
pleased than he ever felt in his 
whole professional career. 

And than, after a two hours' speech, 
Sir Horace resumed his seat. 

The summing-up of the Judge was 
both lucid and exhaustive, but it was 
too close a repetition of Sir Horace 
Silverton's argument to admit of in- 
troduction into these pages, and when 
the jury withdrew it was felt that the 
sole chance for the prisoner was that 
they might possibly arrive at the 
conclusion the dead man died by his 
own hand, and yet in the face of 
that evidence concerning the key it 
seemed a decision hard to come to. 

Ten, twenty, forty minutes passed ; 
it was close upon the hour when the 
jury once more trooped into their 
box, and the Foreman in low tones 
delivered a verdict of "Wilful Mur- 
der" against the prisoner. 

Brief and solemn was the Judge's 
address, but it concluded with his 
assumption of the black cap, and that 
short, terribly plain announcement 
concluding with " God Almighty have 
mercy upon your soul," which nobody 
that has once heard it can ever for- 
get. 



CHAPTER XL 

CUDEMORE'S CONFESSION 

It has occurred to many of us to 
carry our lives in our hands at times. 
In the savage surges of the Mid- 
Atlantic. In the fierce tempestuous 
storms that rage round either of 
the famous Capes — those southern 
extremities of Africa and America, 
where winds and waves seem never 
at rest. In the treacherous shoals 
of the James and Mary, where the 
Hooghly and the Ganges join hands, 
and combine in the sinking of ships. 
In the petty skirmishes of Alma, of 
Inkerman, Balaclava, and the storm- 
ing of Lucknow which preceded that 
terrible twenty-five days' campaign in 
Egypt, culminating in that awful 
twenty-five minutes' action at Tel-el- 
Kebir. If it is given to statues to 
smile, and after the late wearisome 
trial who shall say that " artistic 
grace " is denied them, " the Iron 
Duke's" effigy at Hyde Park Corner 
must have been a study that day 
when the Egyptian heroes strode past 
him, and he recalled the memories 
of Talavera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajos, 
and Waterloo. 

But to be told you are to die a 
dog's death in the grim grey of the 
morning, that you are to suffer that 
excessively brutal extinction peculiar 
only to the fierce Anglo-Saxon race, 
who, under the pseudonym of justice, 
put their fellow-creatures to death in 
the most degrading fashion it is pos- 
sible for human beings to compass ; 
well, that is ugly to think upon. 
Cudemore was no coward, but it is 
easy to imagine a shudder running 
through a strong man's veins at the 
prospect of terminating his existence 
in such miserable fashion. The cru 
cifixion of the Romans might be 
more cruel, but it was infinitely less 
debasing. With all our brag about 
civilization, who can say that the 
Greeks, with a bowl of hemlock, 
were not infinitely before us in this 
respect ? 

Still Ralph Cudemore is condemned 
to die, and though the public have 
great doubts about that sentence 
being carried out in its integrity, 
and even the prisoner himself has 



1 84 



AT FAULT 



received a hint that from what tran- 
spired on the trial the making of a 
clean breast of it would probably 
tend very much to his advantage, 
yet he has so far not spoken. Mr. 
Royston, indeed, has exerted himself 
on all sides to obtain commutation 
of the sentence, and risky though it 
may be, he believes if Cudemore 
could only be induced to speak there 
will be no chance of the extreme 
penalty being resorted to. Sir Horace 
Silverton and the counsel for the 
Crown are of the like way of think- 
ing ; in short, the motive for the 
deliberate murder is palpably want- 
ing, whilst it is so easy to show 
cause why it should never have 
come to pass. 

And the sole man with a faint 
dim perception of the truth is Mr. 
Sturton. Very vague indeed even is 
his theory concerning it, but it has 
mistily crossed his brain that the 
money-lender's love for Foxborough's 
(now pretty conclusively proved to 
be Fossdyke's) daughter might have 
had a good deal to say to it, while in 
the seclusion of his cell Ralph Cude- 
more occasionally smiled triumphantly 
as he thought of that afternoon at 
Tapton Cottage when he had caught 
Nid Foxborough in his arms and 
snatched half a score of kisses from 
her lips in the frenzy of his lustful 
love. He would muse over this till 
it maddened him and seemed utteny 
regardless of the position in which 
he stood ; the nearer approach of 
that grim grey morning which was to 
give his throat to the rope, and his 
last gasp to this world, troubled him 
no iota ; that he could not possibly 
take Nid with him no doubt did. 
He could not have expressed it, 
but he felt like the savage hero of 
Swinburne's Les Noyades. 

" For never a man, being mean like me, 
Shall die like me till the whole world dies. 
\ shall drown with her laughing for love, 
and she 
Mix with me, touching me lips and eyes." 

Like the rude peasant who met this 
doom on the Loire bound hand and 
foot to the dainty aristocrat idol of 
his distant idolatry, when savage 
Carrier daily published the banns 
for what be termed " Republican 
marriages," Cudemore could have 



died with a laugh on his lips, pro- 
viding Nid Foxborough was locked 
in his arms. It was well for Nid 
that he was laid by the heels in 
prison, for when a man contracts 
such fierce love for a woman he is 
capable of almost any crime to 
gratify his passion. He sullenly 
rejected all consolation from the 
chaplain, saying with a bitter sneer 
that if a man didn't know how to 
die without priestly teaching, he was 
either fool or coward. But one morn- 
ing he suddenly expressed a wish 
to see the Governor and Sergeant 
Usher, "the man who," as he said, 
" had tracked him to the grave." If 
the expression was not exactly 
correct the authorities quite under- 
stood what he meant ; the great 
detective had brought a good many 
men in his time to that leap into 
eternity which few face in the grey 
of the morning without a shiver. 

The Governor of the gaol arrived, 
bringing Mr. Usher with him, and 
commenced explaining that he, Cude- 
more, must build no hopes of a 
remission of his sentence on what- 
ever he might be about to confess. 

" Hopes," rejoined the prisoner 
ironically ; " no, if I had any hope 
left I shouldn't come whining to you 
for my life, and it's not for that. 
I've sent for you to tell you how 
the whole thing came about. The 
sergeant there is the first man 
that's bested me since I was twenty. 
He's the only man in England, I 
believe, that could ever have solved 
my riddle. He's not done it quite, 
but he's got so near that I am going 
to tell him the true story. I thought 
you might like to write it down, you 
know, and so asked you to hear it 
too. How he " — and here by a 
gesture Cudemore indicated the 
sergeant — " got the clue to Fossdyke 
and Foxborough being the same man 
of course I don't know. I believed it 
a thing known only to myself ; and, 
as he rightly conjectured, it only 
came to my knowledge by the 
sheerest of accidents at the opening 
of the Baumborough Theatre. Now 
don't ask questions, Mr. Usher, 
because I'm going to tell you all 
you want to know. What took me to 
Baumborough ? A combination of 



C UDEMORE 'S CONFESSION 



185 



business and bad luck, for which I 
am about to pay the penalty. Pooh 1 
a bad night at baccarat has put men 
quite as much out of their world as a 
bad night's luck is about to put me. 
I came down to Bunbury to look 
after James Foxborough. He had 
borrowed, as you know, six thousand 
pounds of me and my friends, and I 
was mighty curious to know what the 
speculation was that he meant to put 
it into. 

" Yes, Mr. Usher, you're quite 
right," said the money-lender in 
reply to the detective's inquiring look, 
" 1 undoubtedly meant to force my 
finger into the pie if I could and 
thought it worth my while. And a 
new theatre was an affair I was sure 
to look at, and without a thought of 
James Foxborough I ran over for the 
evening to see it. With what results 
you know. It killed him, and is 
about to kill me. 

" Now I didn't even know Fox- 
borough's whereabouts. It was a 
mere accident — life's a succession of 
them — which led me to look for him 
down in these parts. But when I 
discovered the secret I knew exactly 
I thought the price it would cost him 
to silence my tongue, and but for his 
terrible irritation and dismay at my 
discovery, I still think things might 
have gone right. He lost his temper, 
a stupid thing to do, and both our 
lives, as it turned out. Am I peni- 
tent?" Cudemore continued, turning 
sharply to the Governor, " not a bit ; 
if I'd to play the cards over again I 
don't think I'd change my lead." 

" You haven't mentioned the 
stakes," observed Mr. Usher sen- 
tentiously. 

" No, you'll perhaps hardly under- 
stand quite how high they were," 
rejoined Cudemore slowly. " I 
wanted to marry his daughter." 

"Good lord!" exclaimed the ser- 
geant ; " what, that pretty girl mixed 
up in the game ? Well, I'm cornered 
this time. If her sweet face was in it 
I'm surprised at nothing you've got to 
say." 

" Was in it ? " retorted the prisoner 
fiercely. "Is in it? you may ask at 
this moment. If I didn't know I'd 
irretrievably lost her, I'd fight for my 
life this minute. You, of course, don't 



understand such things," continued 
Cudemore with a contemptuous wave 
of his hand to the Governor; "but 
you do, sergeant. In the course of your 
experience you've met men who could 
sell their soul for a woman's love, or 
the possession of the woman they do 
love. To have called Nid Foxborough 
my wife I think there's mighty 
little in this world I'd have flinched 
at. Murder ! I'd have walked over 
six men's graves providing they led 
her and me to the altar. Foxborough 
atid I had quarrelled about this very 
subject before. I could have taken 
care of the girl as a lady, and was 
good enough mate for her, I thought, 
but he wouldn't give her to me. Can 
you be surprised that when I found I 
held all the trumps I put the screw on? 
My note ! I forgive Sturton, poor 
weak fool ; once you'd got the clue, 
which you did through that young 
brute Morant, there were clouds of 
witnesses to identify my handwriting. 
Of course, I told Foxborough I knew 
the secret of his life. Foxborough 
knew perfectly well that when I asked 
him to dinner it was simply to 
arrange at what price my tongue 
could be stilled. I named it, and 
again we had angry words on the 
subject. But we stood on a different 
footing this time. It was for me to 
dictate, for him to submit, and he 
had the wit to see it could not be my 
interest to expose him. Of course i.t 
was not. I could make nothing out 
of showing him up to the public, but 
a dead hold over a man is always 
worth having, eh, Mr. Usher ? let 
him be the poorest pauper that ever 
crawled. You can use a poverty- 
stricken wretch, if you've got him in 
irons in this fashion, at times to 
advantage. Well, as I said, we 
quarrelled and parted over it. He 
wouldn't give me Nid, and I would 
take nothing less. He went off to 
his room furious but frightened. 
Though he knew it could not be in 
my interest to expose him, he lacked 
the sense to stand by that knowledge. 
He wouldn't give in, but he was so 
obviously upset by the discovery of 
his secret that I thought I could carry 
my point, and that my best chance 
was before he could pull himself 
together. I went to his chamber 



t86 



AT FAULT 



after we had parted in the sitting- 
room and recommenced the argument. 
We had drunk a good bit of wine 
and he got furious, and at last, saying 
he would kick a scoundrel like me 
out of the house, advanced in most 
threatening manner towards me. No, 
Mr. Usher, I'm not particular, and I'm 
no coward, but I do know when I've 
the worst of the weights, and I'm not 
keen about being kicked ; for the 
matter of that never knew but one 
low class attorney that was ; but 
when Foxborough or Fossdyke ' went 
for me ' I had to meet a bigger man 
than myself. That cursed dagger lay 
on the table. He had put it in his 
bag, no doubt, as a paper knife ; I 
snatched it up instinctively to defend 
myself, and when that brief two min- 
utes' struggle was over John Fossdyke 
lay dead at my feet. Whether he ran 
on the dagger — I think and hope he 
did — or whether I struck at him with 
it I can't say, but it don't matter much 
now to either of us. He's dead, and I 
soon shall be. That, Mr. Usher, is 
the true solution of the riddle you 
have spent such time and patience 
over, and solved near enough to hang 
a man." 

" Most folks," remarked Mr. Usher 
gravely as Cudemore paused, " think 
a man with the grave gaping ready 
for him can't lie. I know better, but 
I ain't, take it .all round, a bad judge 
of truth when I hear it, and it's truth, 
sir, he's telling us now " • and as he 
spoke the sergeant glanced sharply 
towards the Governor, who was rap- 
idly committing the prisoner's confes- 
sion to paper previous to reading it 
over to him. 

" Shake hands," cried the prisoner 
warmly ; " you've tracked me to the 
gallows, but you recognise that I'm a 
man, Usher. You see that I'm no 
mote afraid to die for mad love of a 
woman than scores of others have 
been before me. Once more I say, 
Foxborough met his death at my 
hands as I tell you, and by accident, 
though I would have killed him, or half 
a dozen more, if I had thought it 
would get me Nid for a wife. To lock 
the door, return to town according to 
my original intention, and rely upon 
my assumed name to avoid detection, 



was so obviously what appeared to be 
my game, that I should accept it can 
surprise no one. If it hadn't been 
for the fluke of your finding that scrap 
of paper, Mr. Usher, I should be at 
large this moment, and you would 
be still hunting for James Foxbor- 
ough. If either of you know the 
game of poker you will understand 
what it is to have four aces in your 
hand, and be beat by a flush sequence. 
That's my case ; the aces would be 
good enough to back for fifty years, 
but there is just that one off-chance, 
they may be rolled over. There, I've 
said my say, and open my mouth no 
more ; ask the Governor there next 
month whether I died with my heart 
in my mouth, or as a man who 
dared to play dice with the devil for a 
woman and lost should." 

"You'd die game enough," whispered 
the detective as he gripped Cude- 
more's hand, " but it isn't likely to 
come to that. I'd to run you down, 
mind, as a matter of business ; but 
I'm just as sorry, now it's over, as 
any of the swells down Melton way 
are at the death of a stout fox." And 
with that comforting assurance Mr. 
Usher followed the Governor out of 

the cell. 

* * * 

The play is over, the curtain and 
the lights are down, and the audience 
are seeking cabs and carriages, omni- 
buses and overcoats, and it is perhaps 
well for him that the author cannot 
respond to " a call." We have all 
heard of Artemus Ward's artist that 
painted the famous picture of his 
show ; how the New York public 
couldn't rest till they saw him, and 
how, when they did, they hove chairs 
at him : and that fate awaits author, 
artist, and dramatist at times, though 
they may give the best that is in 
them. If hard it is righteous ; we 
gamble for public approbation, and it 
is childish to whimper because one 
casts " the dog's throw " occasion- 
ally. 

What more am I to tell you ? that 
Cudemore's confession, under Mr. 
Royston's skilful manipulation, re- 
sulted in the extreme penalty being 
commuted to some seven years' penal 
servitude, you have already settled fo» 



CUDEMORE'S CONFESSION 



187 



yourselves ; that Morant, under steady 
Phil Soames's guidance, became a 
prosperous brewer in Baumborough, 
you can also easily imagine ; while 
that the steeple chimes of the old 
church rang out blithely for a double 
wedding some few months after 
Cudemore's trial is superfluous to men- 
tion. That Baumborough should be 
much divided over which was the 
prettiest of those two brides is a ques- 
tion Baumborough will probably 
wrangle over till sweet Bessie Hyde 
and coquettish little Nid are laid — 
and long may it be hence — in their 
graves. You may think these people 
don't exist, ladies and gentlemen. I 
can only say for the last six months 
they have been terribly alive to me, 
very much more so than they will 
: robably ever be to you. How Mr. 
Totterdell became an "Ancient 
Mariner," whose crooked forefinger 
was dreaded as that of him who slew 
the albatross, can be also easily con- 
jectured. He was the terror of Baum- 



borough for some few years, although 
his particular views of the famous 
trial were never exactly ascertained. 

Two women there were to whom 
this was an infinitely sad and sorrow- 
ful story, and these were the two 
wives of the dead duplicate man. To 
keep the truth from either of them 
was impossible, but from the day she 
learnt it, to her death, the name of 
her husband never passed Mrs. Foss- 
dyke's lips. She knew, poor thing, 
that she had never been his wife, and 
that to a woman means much. With 
proud Mrs. Foxborough it was differ- 
ent ; there was no doubt about her 
wedding-ring nor marriage certificate 
She managed the Syringa for many a 
year after Nid had left Tapton Cot- 
tage, and successfully, too. Like 
most histrionic stars, she had no wish 
to retire. She visited her daughters 
at Baumborough now and again, and 
was made much of by each, but she 
and — well — Mrs. Fossdyke never were 
allowed to meet. 



Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London. 



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